U.S. and North Korean diplomats began talks Monday on Pyongyang's nuclear program, the second direct encounter between the two sides in less than three months.
Mobbed by reporters as they left their lakeside hotel for a first meeting at the United States' U.N. mission in Geneva, American diplomats declined to reveal their goals for the two-day talks.
Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. top envoy on Pyongyang, said the two sides hadn't met Sunday despite staying — by design or coincidence — in the same hotel. He was accompanied by Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is taking over the negotiating brief in future talks.
Their opposite on North Korea's delegation is First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.
The parties met for two hours in the morning before breaking to have lunch separately. A statement was expected early evening summing up the day's talks, and diplomats are scheduled to reconvene at North Korea's mission on Tuesday.
U.S. diplomats have previously said they want North Korea to adhere to a 2005 agreement it reneged on requiring verifiable denuclearization in exchange for better relations with its Asian neighbors.
North Korea's closest ally China urged Pyongyang to improve its strained ties with United States and South Korea, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.
Beijing wants to revive the stalled six-nation disarmament negotiations, which also include South Korea, Japan and Russia. North Korea walked out on the talks in 2009 — and exploded a second nuclear-test device — but now wants to re-engage. Last year Pyongyang was also blamed for two military attacks on South Korea that heightened tensions on the peninsula.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lashed out at North Korea on Monday for "reckless and provocative" acts, in an opinion piece published by Japan's Yomiuri newspaper.
He wrote that Washington and Tokyo share common challenges in the Asia-Pacific. "These include North Korea, which continues to engage in reckless and provocative behavior and is developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which pose a threat not just to Japan but to the entire region," he said.
Separately, the U.N.'s top relief official said Monday that the nuclear talks in Switzerland should avoid discussing humanitarian assistance to the chronically hungry Asian country.
Valerie Amos, who visited North Korea last week for 5 days, said it was "not appropriate" for the two sides to discuss humanitarian aid which "must be kept separate from a political agenda."
The U.N. is calling on countries to provide $218 million in emergency aid to North Korea.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.