Sun, May 16, 2004 - Page 5 News List

US demands `basic hurdle' in North Korea arms talks

AP , BEIJING

US insistence that North Korea commit to dismantling its nuclear program before asking for aid in exchange was the "basic hurdle" in low-level talks this week, the North's chief delegate said yesterday.

The US envoy to the six-nation "working level" talks that ended Friday in the Chinese capital said they made progress, but he wouldn't give any details.

North Korea's chief delegate Ri Gun said negotiators supported Pyongyang's bid for aid in exchange for freezing the program. Washington says assistance will come after a freeze only if the North already has committed to what diplomats term CVID -- the "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling" of the program.

"One thing that has been confirmed is that there is a shared view that we must get compensation when we freeze our nuclear weapons development plan," Ri said to reporters at the Beijing airport as he prepared to board a flight home to Pyongyang.

"But the United States kept demanding our promise of CVID, and there has been a shared view that this [US demand] is the basic hurdle in discussions," he said.

Ri added: "We will, however, continue to participate in the talk process with patience."

The discussions this week at a Chinese government guesthouse were meant to resolve technical issues and help to create an agenda for a third round of high-level negotiations.

China said participants affirmed their plans to hold those talks by the end of June and would hold one more lower-level technical meeting before that.

On Friday, US and North Korean officials held rare one-on-one talks and the North denied US claims that Pakistan had provided North Korea with uranium enrichment technology, according to Pak Myong Kuk, a member of the North's delegation.

The former head of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, said in February that he had transferred sensitive technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya.

US envoy Joseph DeTrani yesterday called the talks this week a "good meeting." When asked if progress had been made, he answered: "Yes, definitely," but did not elaborate.

China's delegate, Ning Fukui, yesterday appealed for participants to push ahead with the talks.

"It is the hope of the Chinese side that all parties could hold consultations in a flexible, practical and patient manner, and explore ways to settle the issues," the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Ning as saying.

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