North Korean talks still deadlocked
* The talks are nearing the end and will continue on Monday
BEIJING: Talks aimed at scrapping North’s Korea’s nuclear weapons will drag on at least one more day, delegates said on Sunday amid last-ditch wrangling over a document aimed at breaking the deadlock. Japan’s chief delegate Kenichiro Sasae called on Sunday a “make-or-break day”. But after two short meetings between envoys from the six nations involved, China said the talks would carry on Monday.
“The talks are nearing the end and will continue on Monday,” said Chinese delegation spokesman Liu Jianchao. Japan’s Kyodo News, citing sources, said a plenary session would be followed by a closing session. Disagreements continue to centre on the demand by energy-starved North Korea for the right to peaceful atomic power in return for giving up its nuclear weapons program.
The United States and Japan say the Stalinist state cannot be trusted not to divert civilian programs for military use. The timing of concessions to North Korea for abandoning its nuclear arsenal is also an issue. The United States wants the process to start with a complete and verifiable dismantling of the weapons, while Pyongyang wants a step-by-step approach.
Failure to reach an agreement could force Washington to take the issue to the UN Security Council and press for sanctions, a move opposed by China. North Korea has said such a step would be tantamount to war.
Sasae said a solution might still be reached.
“I can’t say anything definite but I believe there is the possibility of an agreement,” he said after Sunday’s talks, which he characterised as “a little more oriented” towards moving forward.
After a banquet hosted by China Saturday, US envoy Christopher Hill said another recess was possible, in which the countries would go back to their governments for further advice.
Three previous rounds and an initial 13-day, fourth-round session failed to narrow the gap between the United States and North Korea in a crisis now three years old. The fourth round resumed Tuesday after a five-week recess.
The standoff erupted in October 2002 when the US said North Korea was running a secret uranium enrichment program, prompting it to withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. afp