Chief negotiators to the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs could be meeting in Tokyo early this week, with several delegates already in Japan, some of them to attend a security conference starting Sunday.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, the country’s chief delegate, said Saturday in Tokyo, “We have decided to actively contact (officials from other countries) bilaterally and multilaterally for the advancement of six-party talks.”
Upon arriving at Narita airport on Friday, Kim told reporters, “We would not reject a request by the United States for bilateral talks.”
He was referring to possible talks with his U.S. counterpart in the nuclear talks, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill, who is to land in Japan on Monday for the 17th Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, sponsored by the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said earlier there were no plans for Hill to meet with Kim in Tokyo, although he stopped short of ruling it out.
But with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chun Young Woo scheduled to attend the forum, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei planning a trip to Japan and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev suggesting he may extend his stay in Japan through this week, there is a possibility the six chief delegates will have some kind of contact.
If a meeting does take place, it would be the first gathering of the delegates from the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia since the six-party talks were last held in Beijing in November.
Although no concrete plans have been finalized for the gathering, speculation is rife there may at least be bilateral contacts, including between the U.S. and North Korea, which could help pave the way to resuming the stalled nuclear talks.
“North Korea may want to use this as a catalyst” to move forward the stalled negotiations, a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said about North Korea’s latest move to send its officials to Tokyo for the conference.