SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea’s number two leader has told visiting former U.S. President Jimmy Carter that his country is committed to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and resume six-way disarmament talks, the North’s state news agency said on Friday.
Following are some facts about the talks that had been on hold for two years.
Talks began in August 2003 in Beijing involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and hosted by China. The session came after a U.S. envoy visited Pyongyang and confronted officials there with evidence of a secret uranium enrichment program for weapons development.
At the conclusion of four rounds of talks, the six parties agreed on a framework deal in September 2005 under which the North would give up its nuclear program in return for massive economic and energy aid and an end to its diplomatic isolation.
North Korea boycotted the talks, angered by U.S. actions soon after the 2005 deal under which it froze Pyongyang’s accounts at a Macau bank accusing it of money laundering. It stayed away from the negotiating table for more than a year until Washington arranged for the release of the funds.
North Korea set off a nuclear device in October 2006, triggering U.N. Security Council sanctions. But the test also led to a series of meetings by U.S. officials with North Koreans to try to devise a way for the North’s return to the talks.
In 2007, talks reached a deal to provide the North with 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil in return for steps by Pyongyang to shut down and seal its main Yongbyon nuclear plant that produces weapons-grade plutonium and invite international inspectors to oversee those measures.
In 2008, North Korea toppled the cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear plant as part of its pledged steps to disable the facility. The blast was televised live around the world.
A round of the six-way talks ended in December 2008 with sharp disagreement on how to verify the North’s steps to disable its nuclear program. The talks have been on hold since. Following a long-range missile test in April the following year, the North declared dialogue with the United States over. In July, the North declared the six-party talks dead because it was no longer a forum of discussions on equal footing.
Avoiding direct blame by the U.N. Security Council in July for the sinking of a South Korean navy ship, the North says it was willing to return to nuclear disarmament talks.
Reporting by Jack Kim, editing by Jonathan Thatcher