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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

North Korean Talks Begin

Aired August 27, 2003 - 19:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: From a hero in Iraq to high tensions in North Korea. Talks aimed at cooling down the concerns over the nuclear program began in Beijing today.
Six countries, including the U.S. are taking place in the main discussion and officials say there have been side discussions between the U.S. and North Korean diplomats.

Our senior Asia correspondent, Mike Chinoy, is following the talks in Beijing.

Mike, how significant was the one on one meeting between the U.S. and North Korean diplomats?

MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson. It was very significant.

You know, in the run-up to these talks a senior State Department official described life in North Korea has a hellish nightmare, and the North Koreas described him as human scum and the Bush administration as the American imperialist brigands.

But as these talks got under way, those bad vibes, at least for the moment, seemed to be put aside.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHINOY (voice-over): They're talking and nobody walked out. When it comes to diplomacy involving North Korea, that represents progress.

In fact, publicly at least, diplomats from the U.S., North Korea and four regional powers were all smiles. And on the sidelines of Wednesday's first formal session, American and North Korean representatives held a separate informal meeting, their first high- level contact in months.

But the apparent cordiality could not mask a sobering reality. There was no sign North Korea or the United States hat softened its position. Washington insisting the Pyongyang regime give up its nuclear weapons program before the U.S. will talk about offering security guarantees or economic aid. North Korea ruling out concessions unless the U.S. first agrees to a non-aggression treaty.

Still, as China's foreign minister hosted a reception for the delegates, Beijing, which pushed hard to hold these talks, could at least take some satisfaction that there's now a diplomatic channel to discuss the crisis, even if a solution is still a long way off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHINOY: The second round of talks will begin in just a couple of hours, Anderson, and there will be a lot of attention on what the other four countries here have to say.

Specifically, how much the Chinese, Russians, Japanese and South Koreans are willing to pressure the North Koreans and also whether they, unlike the U.S., are willing to offer Pyongyang some kind of sweeteners, incentives, economic aid that might convince North Korea that it's worth scaling back its nuclear weapons program -- Anderson.

COOPER: A lot at stake. Mike Chinoy, thanks very much.

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