• Kyodo


Senior officials involved in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs will gather next week in Tokyo for an academic conference on security issues, Japanese and U.S. government officials said Tuesday.

The meeting will be the first gathering of the delegates from the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia since the multilateral nuclear negotiations stalled after they were last held in Beijing in November.

Representing the U.S. in the conference will be Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill, said Michael Boyle, spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Hill will meet with Japanese and South Korean delegates separately on the sidelines of the meeting, but there are currently no plans for him to meet with the North Koreans bilaterally, Boyle said.

The six-party talks stalled after North Korea refused to return to the table unless the U.S. agreed to lift financial sanctions on entities suspected of laundering money and counterfeiting for the communist regime.

Jong Thae Yang, Pyongyang’s deputy representative to the six-party talks, will represent North Korea at the meeting, Japanese government sources said.

In a rare move, Japan has issued entry permits to the delegation’s four members, including team leader Jong, deputy chief of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s U.S. affairs department, for a one-week stay from Friday to April 14, the sources said.

Japan and North Korea do not have diplomatic ties, and Tokyo rarely grants entry to North Korean officials.

Excluding a visit by North Korean sports officials in February 2005 for a World Cup soccer qualifying match, the last visit by a North Korean official was made in October 2002, when North Korean Red Cross officials accompanied five Japanese who had been abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

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