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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea to Resume 6-Party Talks

BEIJING -- North Korea said Sunday it was committed to banning nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, a day after the communist nation agreed to return to the disarmament table after a yearlong boycott.

The announcement came on the same day U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Chinese leaders met to try to resolve the long-running impasse that has spawned concern over the North's nuclear weapons program.

"The resumption of the talks itself is important but the most essential thing is for ... an in-depth discussion on ways of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula to make substantial progress in the talks," a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the country's official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea "will do its utmost for it."

The news, however, was met with caution by Rice, who said resuming the six-nation talks was "only a start."

"The issue now for North Korea is to make the strategic choice to give up it's nuclear weapons program," she said. "This not just a concern of the United States. This is a concern of all of North Korea's neighbors."

Rice spoke near the end of a 20-hour visit to China in which she met with the country's President Hu Jintao, Vice Premier Wen Jiabao and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing.

As Rice was arriving in Beijing on Saturday at the start of a four-country tour devoted primarily to the North Korean situation, the North's Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan told U.S. Assistant Secretary of Christopher Hill that Pyongyang was prepared to return to the talks during the week of July 25 after shunning negotiations for a year.

For years, Washington has believed that North Korea possesses at least two nuclear weapons. Intelligence analysts believe that the country may have acquired several more in the recent past.

The North readily acknowledges that it has a plutonium-based nuclear weapons capability. It confirmed to U.S. officials three years ago that it also has a uranium-based program but it has since retracted those statements.

Besides the United States and North Korea, the other parties to the six-nation talks include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia. A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said the North's decision was welcome news.

South Korea's main nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, said Sunday that the North's imminent return to the talks was the "fruit of the efforts" of all countries involved.

Seoul has previously said it has made a significant aid proposal to the North if it returns to the nuclear meetings, although officials have refused to specify what that offer contains.

Three rounds of largely inconclusive talks took place in 2003 and 2004; there have been no six-party discussions over the past year.

North Korea blamed "hostile policies" of the United States, including statements by U.S. officials that it considered inflammatory and disrespectful. Rice, for example, listed North Korea as an "outpost of tyranny" during her confirmation hearings last January.