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N. Korea's nuclear envoys return home from China


BEIJING, Sept. 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's veteran nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, and his aides returned to Pyongyang on Friday after a five-day visit to Beijing, where he urged for the resumption of the six-party talks "without preconditions."

Kim and his aides, including Ri Yong-ho, the North's chief delegate to the long-stalled talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, left for Pyongyang via an Air Koryo flight at around noon. Upon arrival at the Beijing airport, they did not give any remarks.

This week, Kim, the North's first vice foreign minister, held a series of meetings with China's top diplomats, including Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart Wu Dawei, and attended a conference organized by China to probe ways to re-start the six-way talks.

During the conference, Kim said his country is "ready to enter the six-party talks without preconditions," but his request was rebutted by both South Korea and the U.S.

The conference was called 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. The three nations sent lower-ranking diplomats and academics to the Beijing conference.

The meeting came 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.

In Washington on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Wang, but the two sides remained far apart over ways to resume the six-party talks.

While key stumbling blocks to resume the six-party talks remain unresolved, Wang told reporters that he was "confident" that relevant parties could reach an agreement to re-start the multilateral negotiations.

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