(FILES) This 18 January file photo shows
Tim Sloan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a Jan. 18 file photo.
updated 1/31/2005 11:12:47 PM ET 2005-02-01T04:12:47

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reaffirmed on Monday a continuing U.S. desire to restart suspended six-party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

In telephone calls, Rice talked with the foreign ministers of South Korea and China, both partners in the talks, about “the general idea of resuming talks and our desire to see talks resume,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Boucher said the contacts with Li Zhaoxing of China and South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon came in a round of get-acquainted calls Rice has been making since she was sworn in last week to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state.

In confirming that resuming the talks were a part of Rice’s discussions with the South Korean and Chinese ministers, Boucher said “there was no news on North Korean willingness to show up to talks.”

The United States, North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia have struggled for months to convene a fourth round of talks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programs. The series began in August 2003, and previous rounds were held in Beijing and ended without breakthroughs.

Experts say the isolated, communist North already might have two or three nuclear bombs, in addition to fuel that could produce several more.

On Sunday, Chung Dong-young, South Korea’s minister for unification of the Korean peninsula, said at an economic meeting in Davos, Switzerland, that he hoped to invite the North’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, to a meeting in Seoul this year if substantial progress could be made on North Korea’s weapons program.

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