A U.S. diplomat said Friday some progress had been made in the first talks between the United States and North Korea since the death of Kim Jong-Il, but there were no breakthroughs.
Glyn Davies, coordinator for U.S. policy on North Korea, said he had a “better understanding” of North Korea’s position on the country's controversial nuclear program, but they had not achieved any “dramatic results” during the talks.
“The talks were serious and substantive ... I think we made a little bit of progress,” Davies told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting in Beijing. “We have been able to illuminate the issues a bit better, gain a better understanding of their point of view, their rationale and their position.”
The talks were seen as a chance for Washington to clarify what policies North Korea’s untested new leader Kim Jong-Un plans, and to try to work with Pyongyang to resume six-nation talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.
The United States has been exploring a resumption of the negotiations, which are chaired by China and also include Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States.
Analysts say Pyongyang ̶ which has said it wants to return to the six-party talks, albeit without any preconditions ̶ may be eager to resume discussions with Washington to show the regime is operating as it was before Kim's death.
Davies said there was no “dramatic difference” in the way the North Korean delegation, led by veteran negotiator Kim Kye-Gwan, conducted themselves during the talks, which focused on denuclearization, non-proliferation, nuclear enrichment, humanitarian aid and Japanese citizens abducted by the North.
Davies said the fact the two sides were able to have “this very in-depth, wide-ranging exchange” represented progress.
“What we have to do is evaluate it ... and then consult with our allies and partners in the six-party process,” he said.
North Korea abandoned the six-nation talks in April 2009 because of what it described as U.S. hostility, and conducted a nuclear test the following month, to international condemnation.
This week’s talks between the North and the United States are the third since July.
The two sides were scheduled to meet in December, but the plan was shelved after Kim’s death on December 17 and the subsequent transition of power to his son Kim Jong-Un.
Davies said he had briefed his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei on the talks, and would meet with officials in South Korea and Japan over the weekend before returning to Washington on Monday.
China, North Korea’s closest ally, has repeatedly urged a resumption of six-party talks.
Washington and Pyongyang have not agreed on further meetings, Davies said.