Progress may be made during six-party talks

At the six-party talks in Beijing, North Korea has voiced its will to take initial steps towards ending its nuke programme. Earlier, China presented a draft agreement aimed at persuading North Korea to dismantle its nuclear activities.

The news came out of Beijing where Day 1 of the fifth round of talks, to discuss the issue, has drawn to a close.

“I sincerely wish that, on the basis of the previous rounds of talks and the various bilateral meetings afterwards, all the parties will make new efforts to make the meeting this time a good start for accomplishing the joint declaration, and a new beginning in the process of the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” said Wu Dawei, China's Deputy Foreign Minister and chief negotiator for six-party talks.

In this latest round of talks negotiators focused on a September 2005 deal, which saw North Korea agree to give up its nuclear arms in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees.

So far, the deal has not been implemented, but it is seen as an imperative part of the talks.

“When we do get a set of actions, if we do, it will be widely seen as a very solid, positive step towards implementation of September '05 Agreement, with the understanding that there is no success here until we implement the full agreement,” stressed Christopher Hill, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and the U.S. envoy.

In a sign that the stand-off may at last be edging forwards, the North Korean delegation said it is prepared to discuss the early steps of nuclear disarmament.

However, the country’s nuclear envoy remarked developments hinged on the attitude of the United States.

“We are prepared to discuss first-stage measures. We are going to make a judgment based on whether the United States will give up its hostile policy and come out toward peaceful coexistence,” claimed Kim Kye Gwan, North Korean Nuclear Envoy.

North Korea wants the USA to agree to call to end financial restrictions, which were imposed in 2005.

In addition, the crack-down affected a Chinese-based bank, which was accused by Washington of money-laundering and counterfeiting for Pyongyang.

North Korea emphasised it will only give up its nuclear work if the USA withdraws the restrictions.

For its part, Washington said it is willing to discuss the issue, but that lifting the measures depends on North Korean action.

Last year the communist country provoked a wave of international condemnation followed by the UN sanctions, when it tested a nuclear device.

No end date has yet been set for this latest round of talks but the Chinese hosts said they are expected to last a few days. Any agreement would mark a rare step forward for the negotiations, which have failed to find a compromise in almost 4 years.