US and South Korean officials warned yesterday that next week's six-nation talks on North Korea's suspected nuclear-weapons program were unlikely to produce a fast resolution to the crisis.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan cautioned against high expectations for the Aug. 27 to 29 talks in Beijing where representatives from his country, the US, China, Japan and Russia will try to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"We should not expect that the issue will be resolved after one or two rounds of talks," Yoon said at a news conference. "We can see the Beijing talks as just the beginning of a long process of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue."
US Ambassador Thomas Hubbard also warned against hopes for a speedy resolution.
"We don't enter into talks without some degree of hope and optimism that they will succeed," said Hubbard, who was in Hawaii for a seminar. "But I don't think that we can expect early, quick results."
The South Korean minister also urged North Korea "not to take any additional steps that could worsen the situation."
"It is important that we should make sure that we keep the momentum alive for dialogue and build confidence that we can resolve the matter through dialogue ... and possibly set the date for the next round of talks," Yoon said.
South Korea has already called on North Korea to refrain from raising tensions by test-launching missiles or taking steps toward building nuclear weapons.
On Monday, the North threatened to boycott the World University Games in the South because of anti-North Korean protests there. But Pyongyang later said it would send its team after South Korea expressed regret over the demonstrations.
North Korea agreed to the US-proposed multilateral talks on condition that the US hold one-on-one talks with North Korea on the sidelines.
However, yesterday North Korea rejected suggestions that it should open its nuclear facilities to early inspections.
North Korea's official state-run news agency said Washington wanted to form an inspection team from the six countries taking part in the Beijing talks.
"The Iraqi war proved that consenting to disarmament through inspection does not help prevent a war but sparks it," said the agency. "Inspection is just like a detonating fuse and a prelude to a war ... This act would be little short of opening Pandora's box."
The nuclear crisis flared in October when US officials said Pyongyang admitted running a clandestine nuclear weapons program using enriched uranium against a 1994 agreeement.