Newspaper: Kim Jong-Il regrets nuclear test and will return to negotiating table

Publish date: October 20, 2006

Written by: Charles Digges

A South Korean newspaper reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il expressed regret to a Chinese delegation about his country’s nuclear weapons test and said Pyongyang was willing to return to international talks if Washington abandons is campaign to Isolate the country, the Associated Press reported Friday.

"If the U.S. makes a concession to some degree, we will also make a concession to some degree, whether it be bilateral talks or six-party talks," Jong-il was quoted as telling a Chinese envoy, South Korea’s mass- circulation Chosun Ilbo reported, citing a diplomatic source in China.

Kim told the Chinese delegation "he is sorry about the nuclear test," AP quoted the newspaper as reporting.

The Chinese delegation led by State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan met the North Korean leader on Thursday and returned to Beijing later that day – ahead of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s arrival in the Chinese capital Friday. China is viewed as a key nation in efforts to persuade Pyongyang to disarm, as it is the hermetic communist nation’s main trading partner and only ally on the United Nations Security Council, which has threatened wide sanctions against North Korea.

North Korea has long insisted that the US desist from a campaign to sever its ties to the international financial system. Washington accuses Pyongyang of complicity in counterfeiting and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction, said AP.

Pyongyang has refused since last November to return to the six-party nuclear talks, which also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. North Korea has sought bolster its negotiating position with a series of provocative actions, including test-firing a barrage of missiles in July and performing its first nuclear test October 9th.

The test, which measured slightly less than one kiloton according to US analysts, is far less than needed for a conventional nuclear weapon. Nuclear weapons tests usually yields far higher measurements in the hundreds of kilotons, and the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons.