ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Andrea Seabrook.
Senior diplomats from six nations have gathered in Beijing to resume negotiations on the issue of North Korea's nuclear programs. Those talks have been stalled for more than a year. The top U.S. negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, says he expects a long and difficult week negotiating with North Korea, or the DPRK, as it's known.
Mr. CHRISTOPHER HILL (Assistant Secretary of State): I hope that the DPRK understands that, as the rest of us do, that we are reaching a fork in the road. I mean, we can either go forward on a diplomatic track, or we have to, you know, go to a much more, more difficult track. And that is a track that involves sanctions and I think ultimately will really be very harmful to the DPRK economy.
SEABROOK: South Korea, Russia, Japan, and China are also participating in the negotiations. NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Beijing to preview the upcoming talks.
Anthony, what does the schedule look like for this week?
ANTHONY KUHN: Well, Andrea, diplomats have been arriving in Beijing over the weekend. Tonight, they're attending a dinner hosted by China, which is hosting these negotiations. And Assistant Secretary of State Hill said he expects to hold informal talks with the negotiators from the other countries. We don't know whether that'll include North Korea's negotiator, Kim Gye Gwan, but Hill says he's open to those talks. And he also said he'd like to see whether the North Korean envoy has been authorized to cut a deal, whether he's got latitude. There is no end date for the talks. We'll just have to see what progress is like.
SEABROOK: What are some of the specific roadblocks that negotiators are trying to resolve?
KUHN: Well, they'll be starting from where things left off last September, which is when the six parties signed a written agreement in which North Korea agreed to abandon all it's nuclear programs, return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, and also, with the U.S., to try and normalize relations and also receive food and energy assistance in return for these actions.
The way North Korea sees it is they believe that the U.S. is still bent on regime change in North Korea. They say they're not going to give up their nuclear weapons until the U.S. drops its hostile policy. At the same time, there will be a parallel working group in the meetings, which will focus on the issue of U.S. financial sanctions on North Korea, which were imposed for alleged involvement by North Korea in counterfeiting of U.S. currency and also money laundering. But they're going to try and stay focused on the nuclear issue.
SEABROOK: Anthony, a lot has changed in the last 13 months since that round of talks. are prospects for successful negotiations now more distant?
KUHN: Many people feel that way. The big thing that happened, of course, since then was North Korea's October 9th nuclear test and the missile test that occurred before that. Now, Pyongyang feels that it's going to be going back into these talks from a much stronger position, being a nuclear power. The other parties at the talks refused to acknowledge that North Korea is a nuclear power.
Another major thing that's happened is that China, because of these nuclear tests, has taken a very - has taken a significantly harder line toward its former ally. It sent signals by briefly cutting food and energy assistance over the border to North Korea, and it really feels that North Korea slighted it by ignoring its pleas not to conduct these tests. So even people in the Chinese camp feel that North Korea is just stalling for time with these talks, and that it's real intention is just to build more atomic weapons.
SEABROOK: NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Beijing, thank you very much.
KUHN: Thanks, Andrea.
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