GENEVA/WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- North Korea and the United States on Monday opened another round of direct talks in a "businesslike and useful" manner, U.S. officials said, but they remained guarded about whether there will be progress this time.
"I would say that they have been ongoing in a businesslike atmosphere," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing, followed by media reports that the first-day session in Geneva, Switzerland, had finished.
She emphasized that the two-day "exploratory" discussions were to follow up on the bilateral talks in New York in late July.
At that time, the U.S. gave the North Koreans a specific set of initial steps that it should take to prove it is ready for full-fledged negotiations on denuclearization and bilateral ties, she said.
The measures reportedly include a halt to its uranium enrichment program, the return of international inspectors to its main nuclear facilities, and improvement in inter-Korean relations.
"Our sense was that the North Koreans needed to absorb our message," Nuland said. "So we look forward, in this round, to hearing what they have taken from what we said in July and whether we are able to make progress now, particularly on the nuclear side."
After years of tensions marked by several provocations, the North has been calling for the unconditional resumption of the six-party talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.
With skepticism over the effectiveness of the six-way format growing, however, the U.S. apparently does not want to rush to the table.
A dilemma for U.S. officials is the possibility of North Korea resuming provocations. The North has declared a goal of being reborn as a "mighty and prosperous" nation in 2012, a presidential election year for the U.S.
Speaking to reporters in a background briefing last week, a senior U.S. official said Washington's priority for now is to manage the situation.
"This is, at this stage, an exploratory phase, and frankly, it's a management strategy," the official said on the condition of anonymity.
Nuland refused to elaborate when asked at the press briefing about what that strategy means.
In Geneva, a U.S. delegate said the two sides started talks by comparing notes.
"We had initial presentations of our respective positions, and I think these were useful presentations," Clifford Hart, the U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks, told reporters after two hours of a morning session at the U.S. mission to the U.N. He did not take questions.
He is a member of the U.S. delegation to the talks, jointly led by the outgoing special representative for North Korea policy, Stephen Bosworth, and his successor, Glyn Davies. Their North Korean counterpart, as in the New York discussions, is Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan.
The second-day session is expected to take place at the North Korean mission in Geneva. The North's delegation has been silent, marking a contrast to its relatively frequent media contact in New York.
Meanwhile, the North's leader, Kim Jong-il, reiterated that his communist regime hopes for a quick resumption of the six-way talks, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
Kim made his remarks in a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang on a trip to Pyongyang, it said.
Xinhua quoted Kim as saying that "the North hopes the six-party talks should be restarted as soon as possible."