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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Optimistic Losyukov Set for N. Korea Talks

BEIJING -- Calling himself "very optimistic," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov arrived in China on Monday ahead of talks on North Korea's nuclear program -- a meeting that Washington has called an important opportunity for the insular nation to prove its good will.

But Losyukov also told Interfax that predictions of a breakthrough would be premature.

Representatives from South Korea arrived on Monday afternoon, and envoys from the United States and Japan touched down in Beijing hours later. North Korean diplomats were due Tuesday morning.

The talks begin Wednesday and continue through Friday.

"We have worked for a long time to have these multilateral talks," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said upon arrival at his Beijing hotel on Monday night. "We're looking forward to a direct and fair exchange of views."

Losyukov, arriving at Beijing's Capital International Airport, told reporters he was reasonably confident that, at the least, the meeting would produce promises of more dialogue.

"We're very optimistic as we approach the beginning of the talks. We will try to make sure they continue," said Losyukov, who is heading the Russian delegation at the six-party talks.

Later, though, he said to Interfax: "Alas, the odds that we will reach an agreement at this round of negotiations in Beijing are very slim. It is hardly possible to achieve progress at the first round."

The countries are meeting to resolve a dispute over North Korea's vows to restart its nuclear weapons program and the United States' equally vehement insistence that Pyongyang abandon it.

On Saturday, North Korea said it would not relinquish its "nuclear deterrent" unless the United States ends its "hostile policy."

It also denounced continuing U.S.-South Korean military drills as "war provocation moves."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which is hosting this week's talks, said Monday that they were "an important step toward a peaceful solution to the Korean nuclear issue."

And in Washington last week, a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Bush administration believes the talks will give North Korea an "important opportunity" to assure its neighbors about its intentions.

Japan, meanwhile, planned a somewhat broader agenda. Foreign Ministry official Mitoji Yabunaka said Tokyo wants Pyongyang to resolve three issues -- the nuclear program, missile development and the abduction of Japanese by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s. "I am going to clearly present Japan's stand," Yabunaka told reporters at the international airport near Tokyo. Japan and North Korea have never had diplomatic relations, and attempts to establish them have stalled because of the abduction issue.

Earlier this month, Losyukov said Moscow and Beijing might offer North Korea security guarantees as part of an international effort to ease tension over the North's nuclear programs.

"North Korea's wish to have security guarantees looks absolutely logical and there is every indication it will be insisting on them," Losyukov told Itar-Tass.