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US, North Korean diplomats attend meetings in Beijing

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BEIJING (AP) -- Diplomats from the U.S. and North Korea are attending a six-nation security forum in Beijing on Wednesday, in a rare opportunity for contact between them after the North fired two suspected powerful new ballistic missiles.

Despite their attendance at the event, the U.S. State Department has said there were no plans for direct talks between the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy Sung Kim, and the deputy director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry's Department of U.S. Affairs, Choe Son Hui.

The conference is described as a multilateral forum involving high-level policymakers, defense ministry officials, military officers, and researchers from China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia, and the United States.

The nations taking part had participated in years of negotiations on North Korean nuclear disarmament that stalled in 2008. There are few prospects of a resumption of the talks amid the Kim Jong Un government's attempts to assert itself as a nuclear weapons state and heightened tensions following a North Korean nuclear test and rocket launch that drew stiff sanctions.

The U.S. and its partners want Pyongyang to recommit to denuclearization before restarting the discussions.

The closed-door Beijing conference was organized by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego.

The institute calls the dialogue a "regular channel of informal communication among the six governments." Officials participate in the meetings in their private capacity, not as official government representatives.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that a suspected first Musudan launch from the east coast city of Wonsan failed early Wednesday morning. While it didn't elaborate, Japan's Defense Ministry said the missile fragmented and pieces fell into waters off the Korean Peninsula's east coast.

A second missile flew only about 400 kilometers (250 miles), well short of its potential 3,500-kilometer (2,180-mile) range.

The launches were North Korea's fifth and sixth such attempts since April.

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