SINGAPORE (AFP) — US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met her North Korean counterpart for the first time Wednesday as talks by foreign ministers from six nations negotiating North Korea's denuclearisation opened.
"This is really the first informal meeting of the six-party talks' foreign ministers. This is quite significant," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in opening remarks.
"This shows that the six parties have the political will to move forward the six-party talks process," he said. The meeting also involves ministers from Japan, Russia and South Korea.
Yang said the denuclearisation talks were now at a "critical point" as they wrap up the second stage, which involves verifying North Korea's promises, and move into the third stage -- abandoning all nuclear programmes and materials.
"We are presented with new opportunities but at the same time we should overcome any difficulties that might occur," he said.
"I'm sure that with the political will and the determination of each side we will be able to achieve our goals."
On July 12, Pyongyang agreed to completely disable its main weapons-grade plutonium-producing facilities by the end of October and to allow thorough site inspections to verify the June declaration of its nuclear programmes.
But so far it has not approved a proposed verification mechanism, and Wednesday's talks will focus on this issue.
Yang hailed efforts made so far in the long-running denuclearisation process.
"We have made major headway in terms of carrying out the second phase," he said.
"This in itself is major progress and this shows that there has been major progress toward the realisation of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."
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