The only progress made at the talks, which involved China, the host, South Korea, Russia, and Japan, is an agreement to meet again. 

Delegations faced difficulty in convincing North Korea to accept the US offer to dismantle its nuclear facilities in exchange for energy and food aid.

The US offer was a major shift in tactics after 20 months of hard negotiations. In the past the US had maintained that North Korea should not be rewarded for acknowledging its international obligations.

However, the North Koreans want the energy aid to be increased by five times and dismissed a US proposal to send  inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Breakthroughs

Aljazeera Beijing correspondent Ezzat Shahroor said the North Koreans entered the negotiations on a strong wicket after achieving two breakthroughs with two major US allies in the region, South Korea and Japan.

The North Korean diplomatic achievements isolated the US and put pressure on it, Shahroor said.

"I do not think North Koreans are reading the situation soundly, the case now is an opposition leader tries to draw a different position, but when and if he becomes president the case will not be the same" 
Kongdan Oh,
political analyst

"They have made great progress on the issue of Japanese nationals imprisoned in North Korea since the 1980s. Also, they succeeded in holding military talks with South Korea for the first time in 50 years," the correspondent said.

China also seems committed to backing North Korea. Chinese foreign office spokeswoman Zhang Qi Yui left the door open regarding IAEA inspectors.

"This is an issue open for discussion, and could be solved through dialogue," Qi Yui told Aljazeera.

US elections

The upcoming US election has been another positive factor for the North Koreans. US Democrats have been sending them signals about opening direct negotiation channels if they win the elections. 

However, Washington-based political analyst and Asia affairs expert Kongdan Oh dismissed possible North Korean gain from the Democrats.

"I do not think North Koreans are reading the situation soundly. The case now is an opposition leader tries to draw a different position, but when and if he becomes president the case will not be the same," Oh said.

He said the North Koreans entered the current round of negotiations free from the fear of being a US military target.

"Fears from being the next US target after Afghanistan and Iraq, have been set aside, after the deteriorated situation in Iraq," Oh said.