updated 12/11/2006 3:48:17 AM ET 2006-12-11T08:48:17

Long-stalled international talks on North Korea’s nuclear program will resume in Beijing on Dec. 18, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday.

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The resumption of the six-nation talks would end a 13-month boycott by North Korea, which was protesting U.S. financial sanctions.

The North agreed to a resumption of talks after it tested a nuclear bomb on Oct. 9.

“The second phase of the fifth round of six-party talks is to be held on Dec. 18 in Beijing,” said a one-sentence statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on the ministry’s Web site.

South Korea welcomed the announced resumption and said it expects “substantial progress” at the negotiations.

“The government expects substantial progress will be made at this round of talks for a resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue and will continue to closely cooperate with related countries for this,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

‘Specific progress’ sought
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that Tokyo wants to see “specific progress toward abandonment of all nuclear weapons and all existing nuclear programs by North Korea.”

Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, said Tokyo plans to bring up the lingering issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and ’80s.

North Korea has demanded that Japan refrain from attending the talks after Tokyo tightened sanctions following the nuclear test, barring the North’s citizens and ships from its ports.

North Korea has boycotted the talks among the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia since November last year, angered by U.S. financial restrictions imposed because of Pyongyang’s alleged involvement in money laundering and counterfeiting of dollars.

Last month, the United States offered North Korea specific details about the kind of economic and energy assistance the North would receive in exchange for shutting down its nuclear arms facilities. But it remains unclear whether the communist country has made specific promises for the outcome of the new talks.

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