Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Six-way nuke talks take a break

DEADLOCKED A recess was announced after 13 days of negotiation, and after North Korea insisted on getting a light-water nuclear reactor for its `peaceful nuclear activities'

AP , BEIJING

Journalists are kept in line by Chinese paramilitary police guards as they wait to enter the North Korean Embassy for a press conference, following the announcement of a recess of talks in Beijing yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Envoys to North Korean disarmament talks announced a three-week recess yesterday after 13 days of meetings, deadlocked over the North's insistence on retaining a peaceful nuclear program.

Talks are to resume the week of Aug. 29, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei told reporters. However, he warned that even after the break, "I can't say for sure that we will reach agreement."

The suspension was announced after the chief envoys from the six governments met yesterday morning in a final effort to produce a statement of principles meant to guide future negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to give up nuclear development.

The disagreement over "peaceful nuclear activity" was "one of the very important elements that led us to fail to come up with an agreement," said the North's envoy, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.

Speaking at a news conference at the North Korean Embassy, Kim also insisted that the US remove its "nuclear threat" from the Korean Peninsula.

"We had to produce nuclear weapons because the United States is threatening us with nuclear weapons," he said.

Some 32,500 US troops are based in South Korea, but Washington says no nuclear weapons are deployed there and that it has no intention of invading the North.

Also yesterday, Japanese and North Korean envoys held a one-on-one meeting -- their first during this round of talks. The North had earlier refused to meet with the Japanese.

The talks stalled after North Korea insisted on receiving a light-water nuclear reactor, part of a US aid package offered in 1994, said the American envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.

"They began to insist on a light-water reactor and indeed wanted to have their desire for a light-water reactor included in the agreement," Hill said. "No one else wants to do that."

Hill said he thought the North Korean delegation in Beijing understood the reactor was "simply not on the table."

But, he added, "perhaps people back in Pyongyang need to hear it directly."

Kim, however, said that he expected that the US would "change its policy on not letting us have any kind of nuclear activities during the recess period."

During the recess, the "six parties will report to their respective governments and study ways to solve the differences," said Wu, the Chinese delegate.

"They are supposed to maintain contact and consultations during that recess," Wu told reporters outside the building where the three-hour meeting took place.

Hill said that contacts between Washington and Pyongyang wouldn't have to stop because of the break.

"Sure, we're willing to be in contact," Hill said when asked whether Washington would stay in touch with Pyongyang during the recess. "We will continue to share our views. We won't let issues of protocol ... get in the way. We are going to work aggressively to take care of this problem."

China, the meeting's host, issued a "chairman's statement" instead of the planned joint statement.

It said the governments "reaffirmed that the goal of the six-party talks is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner and agreed to issue a common paper to this end."

Diplomats say the talks are deadlocked over the North's insistence on retaining "peaceful nuclear activities" and what it would get for giving up its arms program.

The North also wants aid in exchange for freezing nuclear development, and then more for dismantling the program. Washington wants to see the program verifiably dismantled before providing any rewards.

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