US and North Korea hold nuclear talks

Grab from North Korean TV on 28 December 2011 shows Kim Jong-Un saluting during his father Kim Jong-Il's funeral at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang
Image caption The US says it wants to know the direction in which Kim Jong-un plans to lead North Korea

US and North Korean officials met in Beijing for talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme, the first since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in December.

Glyn Davies, the US co-ordinator on North Korea, called the talks "serious and substantive", and said it "covered quite a number of issues".

More talks are scheduled tomorrow.

The long-term aim is to restart six-nation talks on disarmament, which broke down in 2009.

Kim Kye-gwan, Pyongyang's veteran nuclear negotiator, attended the talks with Mr Davies.

The US says it wants to find out if the new leader, Kim Jong-il's son Kim Jong-un, is willing to discuss giving up North Korea's nuclear weapons.

Before the meeting, Mr Davies said he hoped to find out more about the direction in which Kim Jong-un planned to take the country.

"My hope is that we can find a way to move forward with the North, because it's in everyone's interest to try to get on the next phase, which will be six-party talks," he said on Wednesday, as he arrived in Beijing.

North Korea agreed in 2005 to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for aid and political concessions, as part of a six-nation dialogue process involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Russia and Japan.

But progress on the deal was stop-start, and the agreement broke down in 2009. North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and a second in 2009, shortly after walking away from the six-nation deal.

Since then tensions on the peninsula have remained high, particularly between the two Koreas.

Contact between the US and North Korea aimed at restarting the stalled six-nation talks began in July 2011. This meeting in Beijing is the third round of talks aimed at exploring how to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.