Sun, Dec 24, 2006 - Page 5 News List

North Korea talks end in deadlock again

AFP , BEIJING

South Korea on Saturday said that North Korea had failed to give its top nuclear negotiator the authority to broker a deal at six-nation talks on Pyongyang's arms programs that ended in deadlock.

"It has nothing to do with an attitude," South Korea's top negotiator Chun Yung-woo said as he left a Beijing hotel to return to Seoul.

STRICT INSTRUCTIONS

"There must have been strict instructions from Pyongyang that they should not officially address the nuclear issue," he said.

Several negotiators expressed frustration at what they called North Korea's rigid stance during the week of talks, which broke up Friday with no real progress and no date set for a fresh round of negotiations.

US GETS BLAME

North Korea's chief negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, blamed a "hostile" US policy toward Pyongyang for the failure of the talks, while US envoy Christopher Hill said Kim had not been given the proper authority to negotiate.

"It's like speaking to a brick wall," one exhausted diplomat said on condition of anonymity. "They're repeating the official line over and over again."

The six nations -- China, the two Koreas, the US, Japan and Russia -- had resumed the intermittent, three-year-old forum this week hoping to make real progress toward a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

But the talks snagged on North Korea's refusal to engage in substantive discussions until Washington lifted financial sanctions imposed last year which have frozen millions of dollars of North Korean funds in a Macau bank.

NO CHANGES

"If you closely monitor North Korea's official statements, you can easily see that they have not changed at all for decades," said one veteran Seoul diplomat who was part of Seoul's delegation to the six-party talks.

On Monday, Kim unveiled a long list of demands at the start of the talks, which Pyongyang had boycotted for more than a year.

"At the negotiating tables, others may change bit by bit for a possible compromise but North Koreans are just stuck in like a rock. Simply, they don't have the power to negotiate a deal," the South Korean diplomat said to reporters.

"Fortunately, we were allowed to smoke," he added.

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