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U.S. labels North Korea talks 'constructive and businesslike'

By Jill Dougherty, CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent
  • U.S. and North Korean delegations meet over two days in New York
  • The U.S. State Department says "the path is open" for more talks
  • A State Department spokesman says "we're going to consult with our partners"
  • North Korea pulled out of six-party talks on nuclear disarmament in 2008

Washington (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department described its first direct talks on nuclear issues with North Korea in three years as "constructive and businesslike," expressing hopes that they would lead to greater stability and continued discussions.

Teams led by U.S. Special Representative Stephen Bosworth and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kae-Gwan met on Thursday and Friday in New York.

In a written statement on Friday, the State Department said, "The path is open to North Korea towards the resumption of talks, improved relations with the United States and greater regional stability if North Korea demonstrates through actions that it supports the resumption of the six-party process as a committed and constructive partner."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner referred to the talks as exploratory and added, "We were clear-eyed going into them and we're going to assess, we're going to consult with our partners."

This was the first direct meeting on nuclear issues between the two nations since 2008 when North Korea pulled out of the so-called six party talks. Besides North Korea and the United States, the other four nations involved in those talks aimed at a multi-national nuclear disarmament initiative were South Korea, Russia, China and Japan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited the North Koreans to New York after an unexpectedly positive meeting between North and South Korean officials at a security conference last week in Bali, Indonesia.

Tensions have been high on the Korean peninsula since the sinking in March 2010 of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan -- which an international investigation blamed on the North, but that Pyongyang has denied authorizing. That was followed by the shelling last November of Yeongpyeong Island, which killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Korea expert John Park, an analyst at the United States Institute of Peace, said North Korea seems willing to prove it is serious about resuming talks. In 2005, Pyongyang promised to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic aid and a political thaw.

However, Park said, "The vast majority of the members in the six-party talks are doubtful that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons anytime soon."