N. Korea urges resumption of six-party talks 'without preconditions'

By Kim Deok-hyun

BEIJING, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's chief nuclear envoy called for nations involved in the long-stalled talks on the North's nuclear program to resume the multilateral process "without preconditions."

"We are ready to enter the six-party talks without preconditions," the North's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan told a forum organized by China's foreign ministry in Beijing.

Kim said "preconditions" set by South Korea and the United States, however, "are in violation of the spirit of the Sept. 19 Joint Statement," referring to a landmark agreement reached in 2005 at the six-party talks.

Under the 2005 agreement, North Korea pledged to give up its nuclear weapons program in return for a U.S. promise not to attack or invade it and to work toward normalized ties.

The one-day forum has been arranged by China to mark the 10th anniversary of the launching of the six-party talks. The off-and-on forum that involves the two Koreas, China, the U.S., Japan and Russia has been stalled since late 2008.

Titled "Retrospects and Outlooks: A Decade of the Six-Party Talks," the meeting comes amid renewed efforts by China to revive the six-party channel, but South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have shown a cool response to it in the absence of a clear North Korean willingness to disarm.

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