Renewed talks on North Korea's nuclear program open in Beijing. North Korea still claims it intends to give up its nukes. But on Oct. 9, it detonated its first atomic bomb. That act raised questions about the effectiveness of those diplomatic negotiations.
At the start of negotiations Monday, North Korea declared that it is a nuclear power deserving of respect and warned that it will increase its nuclear capability if the talks do not go well.
China's lead negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, indicated that the parties would begin where they left off in September, 2005. That was when North Korea signed an agreement pledging to scrap its nuclear programs in exchange for commitments from the United States and other countries to provide security guarantees and energy aid.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson later relayed Wu's comments at a press briefing. "We have finished the stage of commitment for commitment," the spokesperson said. "The current and future task for us is to follow the principle of action for action."
China suggested that at this round of talks, the parties should work on a roadmap for implementing the September 2005 agreement. The plan could include forming working groups for separate issues within the agreement.
But North Korea's nuclear test, and its harsh rhetoric, have cast doubt on whether the DPRK, as it is formally known, really is committed to giving up its nukes.
"Frankly I can't tell you which road the DPRK is choosing," said Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, head of the U.S. delegation. "We can go either road," Hill said. "We would like denuclearization via a diplomatic negotiation, but if they don't want that we are quite prepared to go the other road."
Tuesday, U.S. Treasury officials are expected to join in discussions on American financial sanctions imposed on North Korea for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and money laundering. North Korea says those sanctions, as well as U.N. sanctions, must be lifted.
No date has been set for the round of talks to wrap up.