North Korean disarmament talks were extended as envoys struggled for agreement over a Chinese proposal that would let Pyongyang keep its civilian nuclear power program after it disarms.
After the heads of all six delegations met twice yesterday morning in Beijing to exchange opinions on the document, host China said the negotiations were almost finished.
"The talks are drawing to an end," the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. It gave no explanation, but said delegates would meet again today.
It was not immediately clear if today would be the last day of this round of talks, and officials were not available for comment.
State-run China Central Television's CCTV 9 network reported that the US and North Korea remained at odds, but its reporter said, "For more information, we'll have to be more patient and wait and see."
"We'll see where we are at the end of the day," US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said earlier yesterday as he left his hotel. Hill said he would stay in Beijing another day.
Hill also said on Saturday, after discussions that dragged late into the night, that some countries among the six participating in the talks had indicated that they were dissatisfied with the compromise proposed by China
"We're all very supportive of the document, the issue is tactics of how we express elements in the document," Hill said yesterday morning. "Some delegations prefer to leave some things more ambiguous, my delegation would like to see things less ambiguous."
Envoys said they wanted to keep talking until they reach an agreement.
"Since we do not have a set date, we will continue negotiations to coordinate each party's interests with the draft that has been proposed," Song Min-soon, South Korea's deputy foreign minister, said as he left his hotel early yesterday.
The talks in Beijing involve China, Japan, Russia, the US and the two Koreas.
The North has been offered economic aid, security guarantees from Washington and free electricity from South Korea in exchange for dismantling its weapons program. Pyongyang has demanded it be given a nuclear reactor for generating electricity before disarming, promising to open such a facility to co-management and international inspections.
The new Chinese draft affirms Pyongyang's right to peaceful nuclear activities after it ends its weapons program. Washington has insisted the North cannot be trusted with any nuclear program, given its history of pursuing atomic bombs.
North Korea has not directly commented on the proposal, but on Friday, after it was put forward, a spokesman for Pyongyang denounced efforts to get it to give up its nuclear program without concessions by the US and called such demands "brigandish."
"Clearly, they have some problems with the draft but we have some problems as well," Hill said Saturday of North Korea's stance.
Hill said he was making frequent calls to Washington, and added yesterday that he had spoken more than once with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice was planning to contact foreign ministers of nations involved in the talks, Hill said.
He praised the Chinese for trying to bridge the differences between the six countries, but said Washington could not accept a vague statement of principles that would leave tough issues for later.