BEIJING - China said yesterday that six-nation talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program will resume next week, even as Pyongyang raised a possible obstacle to progress by renewing calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula.
China appealed to all sides to be "flexible and practical" in seeking a resolution to the long-running dispute.
The latest round of discussions involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia recessed Aug. 7 after a failure to agree on a statement of principles despite 13 days of negotiations. The talks resume Tuesday and will be open-ended, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular news briefing.
North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju said Pyongyang would seek a "negotiated peaceful settlement" to the issue, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday that there was progress at the last session and added, "We are ready to stay as long as it takes to get this done."
A Japanese official expressed optimism that the six parties could reach a settlement.
"We hope there will be an agreement on North Korea's nuclear dismantling," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda. He also said Tokyo would try to engage the North in bilateral talks regarding Japanese citizens kidnapped to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
A senior Russian diplomat also was upbeat about the talks.
Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev said most aspects of the statement of principles had been agreed upon. "This means that the positions of the parties have never been closer," he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Alexeyev added, however, that the United States and North Korea remain divided on the key issue of the scale and scope of dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear program.
He also said Russia opposed U.S. and Japanese proposals to turn over the North Korean nuclear arms issue to the U.N. Security Council, as well as any changes in the current negotiation format should the six-nation talks fail again.