Negotiations aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons aspirations resumed Tuesday after a monthlong recess, but prospects for progress were uncertain as Pyongyang remained insistent on its right to a civilian atomic program.
Envoys from China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas all clasped hands together at a state guesthouse in Beijing before heading into a closed-door session to continue the fourth round of talks since 2003.
Last month, negotiators took a break after a record 13 days of meetings failed to yield an agreement on a statement of principles to lay the foundation for the North's disarmament.
No end date has been set for this week's talks, but the main U.S. envoy said it would likely be shorter than the last session.
"The sense is we should be able to wrap this up in a matter of days, not weeks," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Tuesday evening.
Hill said he had seen the North Korean delegation briefly on Tuesday but planned a fuller one-on-one session with them Wednesday afternoon where their views would be made known.
Meetings held Tuesday focused on procedural issues and was held in a "friendly atmosphere featuring mutual respect," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.
On photo: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.