Mon, Dec 15, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Korea talks under threat following US insistence on arms

AFP , TOKYO

The US is insisting that the abolition of North Korea's nuclear weapons is open to international scrutiny in a move likely to delay a new round of talks until next year, it was reported yesterday.

The US and its allies, South Korea and Japan, have revised a Chinese-drafted joint statement for the six-nation talks because it was seen as ambiguous on the "verifiable and irreversible" manner of dismantling the nuclear program, Japanese press reports said.

The revised draft statement was sent on Saturday to China, the host of the nuclear talks which started in Beijing last August, the influential newspaper Asahi Shimbun said quoting a Japanese government official.

The six nations, also including North Korea and Russia, will not hold the new round from Dec. 17 to Dec. 19, the originally proposed dates, the news agency Jiji Press reported from Washington, quoting a conference source.

"As a result, it is almost impossible to convene the meeting by the end of this year and the participating nations are set to aim for a meeting in mid-January," Jiji said.

The revised statement clearly refers to "verifiable abolition" of the Stalinist state's nuclear program, Asahi said.

The Kyodo news agency, in a report from Washington overnight quoting a negotiation source, said that China was expected to adjust the content of the statement with North Korea over the weekend and early next week.

But whether Pyongyang will agree to include a phrase about verification is unclear because it would mean Pyongyang discarding the nuclear card, Kyodo said.

On Dec. 4, the US, South Korea and Japan agreed that any joint statement should make six points, including a declaration of their willingness to resolve the standoff peacefully, Kyodo said.

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