07/26/2005, 00.00
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Some signs of flexibility between the United States and North Korea in Beijing

Six-nation talks re-start in Beijing. They were interrupted in June 2004 when North Korea walked away from the negotiating table.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear programme officially re-opened today in Beijing with delegations from China, the two Koreas, Japan, Russia and the United States at the table. North Korea had walked away from the talks in June 2004 accusing the United States of trying to engineer the Communist regime's collapse.

In order to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme, the United States is showing greater flexibility—it has offered to open new diplomatic offices in Pyongyang and has accepted direct talks "to get acquainted".

A meeting took place between the head of the US delegation, Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill, and Deputy Foreign Minister of North Korea Kim Kye-gwan.

North Korea also showed greater openness after threatening to build more nuclear weapons in February of this year.

Mr Kim said that his country was ready to work together with other nations to denuclearise the Korean peninsula. He added that he hoped that the talks in the next few days would lead to "strategic decisions" that would make denuclearisation possible.

Pyongyang's bellicose stance and weakness are fuelled by its internal situation. A decade of agricultural, social and political disasters have wrecked the country and brought the population on the verge of starvation.

Officially, energy shortages are another reason for North Korea to build nuclear power plants.

But pledges by the other countries involved in the six-nation talks to bring aid have induced it go back to the negotiating table.

The United States is ready to re-start oil exports to North Korea—it had turned the tap off back in November—if Pyongyang is prepared to allow foreign observers to verify that the nuclear programme is effectively winding down.

The US is also prepared to ship 50,000 tonnes of food aid to the country.

South Korea has already sent 500,000 tonnes of rice to the North.

Another proposal on the table is South Korea's offer to supply 2 million kilowatt of electricity annually to North Korea by 2008 if the communist state agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.

However, some analysts note that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs are cool towards the idea. For the US, South Korea submits too easily to the North's blackmail.

For its part, Japan has also called for getting rid of North Korea's nuclear technology as the minimum condition for aid in the energy field, a Tokyo paper reported.

China's Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing has urged the delegations to the six-nation talks to be flexible and pragmatic.

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