US-North Korea Talks to Begin in New York

U.S. and North Korean negotiators will meet Thursday morning in New York for their first direct talks in more than 18 months. Crowd control officers were expected to put up barricades outside the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, where the talks are to start sometime after 9 a.m. local time (1300 UTC) The U.S. side will be led by special envoy Stephen Bosworth.

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, who leads the North Korean delegation, expressed high hopes for what are expected to be two days of meetings when he arrived in New York Tuesday. He said now is the time "for all countries to reconcile."

But U.S. officials have been more cautious, saying they simply want to determine whether North Korea is serious about fulfilling commitments it made in 2005 to scrap its nuclear program in return for aid and diplomatic benefits.

North Korea has been seeking a resumption of six-nation talks on those programs, after walking away from the negotiations in 2008.

North Korea set the stage for what could be a contentious meeting late Wednesday when its ambassador to the United Nations criticized the United States for its own nuclear weapons. Sin Son Ho said at a U.N. General Assembly meeting that the United States should negotiate a treaty to abolish its own weapons if it wants to tell other countries to give up theirs.

In Pyongyang Wednesday, North Korea reiterated its longstanding desire for a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the 1950-to-1953 Korean War. However Washington has long maintained that it will not forge a separate peace with Pyongyang before it reconciles with South Korea.

The United States invited Kim and his delegation to New York following the success of surprise talks between the North and South Korean nuclear negotiators last week in Indonesia. The talks signaled a possible thaw after more than a year of high tension between the two countries.

South Korea has been demanding an apology from the North for the sinking of a warship, the Cheonan, by what it says was a North Korean torpedo in March 2009. Pyongyang denies any role in the sinking.

The South also wants an apology for a deadly artillery attack in November on a border island, Yeonpyeong. North Korea claims the South provoked the attack.

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