Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Six-nation talks end in deadlock

FINGERPOINTING North Korea's envoy blamed the US and Washington's man blamed Pyongyang, while South Korea's president blasted the US

AFP , BEIJING

Six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear arms program closed yesterday in deadlock, with the US and the North blaming each other for the impasse.

The latest round of talks wrapped up after five days of meetings with no progress made and no date set for another round.

The negotiations snagged on the North's refusal to engage in substantive discussions until the US lifted financial sanctions imposed last year which have frozen millions of dollars of North Korean funds in a Macau bank.

North Korea's chief negotiator Kim Kye-gwan blamed a "hostile" US policy toward Pyongyang for the talks' failure.

"I feel the United States has not yet decided to lift sanctions and abandon its hostile policy against us," Kim told a press conference after the talks ended.

"It is clear who should be responsible for the failure to have substantive discussions," he said.

The six nations had resumed the intermittent, three-year-old forum this week hoping to make real progress toward a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

But following its first-ever atomic test on Oct. 9, an emboldened Pyongyang unveiled a long list of demands at the opening of the talks, which it had boycotted for the previous 13 months.

The US refused to buckle, maintaining that the financial sanctions, which were imposed for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting, were a law enforcement issue unrelated to the nuclear issue.

The chief US envoy to the talks, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill, pointed the finger at North Korea for refusing to consider undisclosed US proposals to end the crisis earlier in the week.

"When the DPRK [North Korea] raises problems, one day it's financial issues, another day it's something they want that they know they cannot have, and another day it's something that is said about them that hurts their feelings," Hill said. "It's one thing after the other."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for the world to unite to pressure North Korea.

"The international community needs to unite and implement the UN resolution in order to lead North Korea to take specific actions," Abe said, referring to UN sanctions triggered by the October test explosion.

"The North Koreans need to realize that they won't solve such problems as the serious food issue -- in which many of its people suffer from a shortage of daily food -- unless they solve [the nuclear issue]," Abe said.

However in remarks released yesterday, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun accused the US of being partly to blame for the standoff. Roh said the US wrecked a six-party deal struck in September last year in which the North agreed to give up its nuclear program in return for security guarantees and aid.

He said the US' imposition of the financial sanctions just a few days before that deal angered the North, and suggested the timing may not have been a coincidence.

"If you look at it in a bad light, you may say [the two US departments] were playing a pre-arranged game," Roh said, referring to the US State Department, which is involved in the talks, and the Treasury, which imposed the sanctions.

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