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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

N. Korea's Return to Talks Hailed

APDefense Minister Ivanov and his Norwegian counterpart, Stroem-Erichsen, speaking to reporters Wednesday in Oslo.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday welcomed North Korea's decision to return to six-nation disarmament talks after the United Nations imposed sanctions over the communist nation's nuclear weapons program.

"We are convinced that there must be a political solution to this extremely difficult problem. The negotiations should lead to concrete results," Ivanov said during an official visit to Norway.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that the talks could resume this month. Ban was in Moscow to meet with President Vladimir Putin and other officials.

The six-party talks "may resume already in November, by the end of December at the latest," said Ban, who is to be the next United Nations secretary-general.

North Korea agreed Tuesday to rejoin six-nation nuclear disarmament talks in a diplomatic breakthrough after it drew broad condemnation for conducting its first known atomic test on Oct. 9.

Ban hailed Pyongyang's move as an "encouraging signal."

"I hope that we will find a solution to the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula," he said, Itar-Tass reported.

Russia is one of the nations in the talks, which also include the United States, China, Japan and the two Koreas.

An agreement should include security guarantees for North Korea and "on the other side, stopping all atomic weapons programs in North Korea under strict international controls," said Ivanov, according to the Norwegian interpretation of his remarks in Russian.

Putin told Ban during their Kremlin meeting on Wednesday that Moscow was closely following the developments around the North Korean nuclear program, before reporters were whisked out of the room.

The Foreign Ministry welcomed North Korea's announcement and called for the negotiations to resume as soon as possible. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow expected the talks to start shortly, adding that the date was still being discussed.

The chief U.S. nuclear envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said Tuesday that the nuclear talks could resume as early as November or December, but acknowledged the negotiations still had a long way to go.

The nuclear talks reached an agreement in September 2005 where the North pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees, but there was little progress toward implementing the accord.

Pyongyang barely alluded to its Oct. 9 nuclear test in a statement announcing the return to talks and did not say whether it remained committed to an earlier agreement to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Ban, who will take over the top UN job from current Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Jan. 1, also thanked Moscow for backing his candidacy. "As secretary-general, I will work closely with Russia," he said.

Ban also said Seoul hoped to take the bilateral ties "to a new level of mutual trust and partnership."

Ivanov spoke during an overnight visit to NATO member Norway, which shares Arctic land and sea borders with Russia, to meet Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Defense Minister Anne-Grete Stroem-Erichsen, and other officials.

Stroem-Erichsen, appearing with Ivanov at a news conference, said their talks covered a range of bilateral and international issues, including Afghanistan, where Norway has about 520 peacekeepers.

Russia withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in 1989 after an unsuccessful occupation and attempt to stabilize its neighbor.

"As you know, Russia has a lot of experience in attempting to normalize Afghanistan," Ivanov said. "All attempts [to bring stability], not just NATO but the international community with the blessing of the UN ... are in Russia's interests."