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North Korea Ready To Resolve Differences Over Six-Party Talks

U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth said, "We identified some common understandings on the need for and the role of the six-party talks and the importance of implementation of the 2005 joint statement."
(RFE/RL) -- North Korea has said it wants to work with the United States to iron out differences between the two countries over resuming the six-party talks.

The December 11 offer, reported by the North's Korean Central News Agency, comes a day after U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, ended three days of talks in Pyongyang to explore ways to restart the negotiations.

That North Korea's positive response came so soon after Bosworth's visit doesn't necessarily mean the American's mission to Pyongyang was a success, but it raised hopes that the talks could resume eventually.

Bosworth's visit represented the first high-level meetings between North Korea and the United States since Obama took office in January. Bosworth didn't meet with the country's leader, Kim Jong Il.

Arriving in the South Korean capital Seoul on December 10, Bosworth expressed optimism about his talks in North Korea.

"We identified some common understandings on the need for and the role of the six-party talks and the importance of implementation of the 2005 joint statement," Bosworth said.

Bosworth was referring to a deal under which North Korea would end its nuclear weapons program in exchange for generous economic aid, a normalization of relations with Japan and the United States, and a full-fledged peace agreement to replace the armistice that ended the Korean fighting in 1953.

North Korea's announcement seemed to parallel Bosworth's upbeat reaction to the talks in Pyongyang. The government said it had "deepened the mutual understanding, narrowed their differences and found not a few common points."

Speaking on December 10 at the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley said much work remains.

"I think we would characterize this meeting as a good start. It was the first high-level meeting between the United States and North Korean officials in more than a year," Crowley said.

But at the same time, Crowley added, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Bosworth had both said, "there is still much work to be done. The purpose of our meeting was, in fact, to express directly to North Korea our encouragement for them to return to the six-party process -- this meeting was held in the context of the six-party process."

The six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program have been going on for years. Besides North Korea and the United States, they include the North's neighbors: South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia.

Pyongyang abruptly left the negotiations earlier this year, vowing never to return. It complained about criticism from governments around the world of its effort to develop rockets that could send a missile across the Pacific Ocean.

It then tested a nuclear weapon and restarted operations at its nuclear facilities.