FEBRUARY 28 2007 19:07h
The United States and North Korea will meet in New York next Monday and Tuesday to discuss the normalization of relations.
"I would caution you that this meeting is just a first step. It is an initial conversation," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.
"Don't look at it as a meeting that is going to produce immediate results. Nobody is going to come out the front door and wave a piece of paper with some agreement on it," he said.
Such talks are envisaged under the Feb. 13 agreement in which North Korea agreed to take steps toward nuclear disarmament in exchange for $300 million in aid and the prospect of other diplomatic and security benefits.
The agreement, reached four months after Pyongyang stunned the world with its first nuclear test, requires the secretive communist state to shut down the reactor at the heart of its nuclear ambitions and to allow international inspections.
In a nod to other benefits that it might ultimately receive if it carries through on abandoning its nuclear arms programs, the deal called for a working group on the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations to meet within 30 days.
The United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations and the two have a host of unresolved issues stemming from the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended with an armistice rather than a formal peace treaty.
Other working groups are to be set up within 30 days on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, on the normalization of North Korea-Japan relations, on economic and energy cooperation and on a "northeast Asia peace and security mechanism."
McCormack said the United States would be represented at next week's talks by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korea by its nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan.
He said Kim was likely to arrive in San Francisco on Wednesday and would have meetings with nongovernmental groups and others before traveling to New York on Friday.
Despite the quickening efforts to implement the February 13 agreement, Hill was expected to warn North Korea later on Wednesday that it remained subject to U.N. sanctions.
In written testimony prepared for delivery to the U.S. Congress, Hill also was expected to say that even though Washington is ready to resolve a dispute over Pyongyang's accounts in a Macau bank, this will not end North Korea's problems with the international financial system.