A US envoy warned yesterday that Washington was likely to give Chinese diplomatic efforts over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs only a few more days before seeking a tough UN resolution, as South Korea said it would halt aid to the North until it returned to disarmament talks.
"My sense is we're down to a number of days," US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman appealed for efforts by other governments, saying Beijing alone couldn't draw North Korea back to nuclear talks and stop it from conducting future missile tests.
Backers of a Japanese-sponsored UN resolution threatening sanctions against North Korea over its July 5 missile tests had agreed to postpone a vote to give Beijing time to lobby the North. But North Korea appeared to reject diplomatic overtures by a visiting Chinese delegation.
Also yesterday, talks between the two Koreas in the South's port city of Busan ended a day early after the North demanded 500,000 tonnes of rice as food aid. A South Korean official said the North's diplomats refused to address its barrage of missile tests last week.
The North threatened that its neighbor would "pay a due price" for the collapse of negotiations.
A high-ranking South Korean official said an end to the North's boycott of six-nation nuclear talks was the only way the regime could get aid -- the strongest reaction yet from Seoul.
"We're going to withhold aid until we see an exit out of this situation," the official told reporters on condition he not be named due to the sensitivity of his position. "As to what the exit is, I think the most important thing is North Korea's return to six-party talks."
Japan pressed for a vote on its sanctions resolution after China and Russia introduced a rival proposal that would demand an end to the North's missile tests but included no threat of penalties.
"There is no change in our view that the resolution incorporating sanctions should be voted on promptly," Cabinet chief Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo. "We cannot be pushed around by intentions to diminish or delay" action against North Korea, he said.
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