Although there's been surprisingly little coverage in mainstream media outlets, a date for the next round of the Six Party Talks has been set: February 8th. Those involved indicate (see below) that the duration of the next round is dependent entirely upon the amount of progress made.
As written, the AP story below (carried in the Washington Post) portrays Japanese Prime Minister Abe as placing the burden for making progress heavily on the DPRK, whereas, unsurprisingly, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu stresses that the burden is a "joint" one.
The story also notes that one Russian envoy expressed optimism, as did an American official also in Beijing for talks on the DPRK's financial dealings (which were connected, until they were a seperate issue, until they were connected again...stay tuned).
Also quoted herein is a statement by the ROK Foreign Ministry in which it expresses hope that this round of talks will produce an agreement on how to begin implementing the agreement reached in 2005 (yes...an agreement on the agreement). [Note: this may be due a) to my failings as a researcher or b) the fact that it isn't there, but I was unable to locate an English version of this statement on the Ministry's English website.]
China: NKorea Nuke Talks Resuming Feb. 8
By AUDRA ANG
The Associated PressTuesday, January 30, 2007; 6:46 AM
BEIJING -- International talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs will resume Feb. 8, China said Tuesday, as Washington and Pyongyang began a new round of meetings over the North's alleged illicit financial dealings.
The last round of arms talks in December _ held in the wake of the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test _ failed to make any progress on getting Pyongyang to disarm. The duration of next week's nuclear discussions "will depend on the progress made during the talks," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu.
Japan's prime minister warned the North would face repercussions if the talks don't move forward. "If the six-party talks fail to yield results, international pressure on North Korea will be further increased," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo. "It will be North Korea that will be in the most difficult situation."
The negotiations have only resulted in one agreement since they began more than three years ago, a September 2005 pact where the North pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
Jiang said the key goal at the next meeting would be to take "substantive steps" toward implementing that agreement between China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas. "We hope the relevant parties can make joint efforts ... toward implementing the joint statement in a comprehensive way," Jiang said at a regular news briefing.
Russia's nuclear envoy was upbeat Tuesday ahead of the talks. "The very fact that there was agreement to hold a new round testifies to signs of small movement in the positions of the participants," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Lusyukov, who will head the Russian delegation at the talks, was quoted by Russian news agency RIA-Novosti as saying. But the U.S. ambassador to South Korea said setting a date didn't mean progress in itself, calling for continued unity" among the countries involved to persuade the North to abandon nuclear weapons.
"Pyongyang has begun to get the message that the entire world has concerns about its provocative actions," Alexander Vershbow said in Seoul. "This unified response has in my view been key to the renewal of the six-party talks and to the prospects for forward movement at next week's session."
The South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it "expects the participating countries to produce a substantial agreement for early steps" to implement the 2005 agreement.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Treasury official in Beijing for negotiations with North Korea over its alleged illicit financial dealings said he was "hopeful" of progress on the issue, which has stymied progress at the nuclear talks.
Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser was to meet his North Korean counterparts Tuesday to talk about U.S. financial restrictions, which were imposed due to Pyongyang's alleged smuggling and counterfeiting.
"We're prepared to go through these talks as long as it takes for us to get through our agenda," Glaser told reporters. "I'm hopeful we'll make progress." Pyongyang has tied the two issues together since Washington took action against the Macau-based Banco Delta Asia in 2005, accusing the bank of complicity in North Korea's alleged illegal financial activity such as counterfeiting and money laundering.
The move has caused other banks to steer clear of North Korean business for fear of losing access to the U.S. market, hampering North Korea's access to the international banking system.
North Korea had refused to discuss its nuclear program until the financial restrictions are lifted, and only agreed to return to the arms talks in the wake of its nuclear test following a yearlong boycott to address the financial issue.
Associated Press writer Alexa Olesen in Beijing contributed to this report.