N Korea nuclear talks to continue
Negotiators say "substantive discussions" are ongoing with North Korea over nuclear issue.
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2006 13:27 GMT
Talks are being held behind closed doors at a Chinese government guesthouse [GALLO/GETTY]

Countries discussing North Korea's nuclear programme have agreed to keep talking, saying it is too early to predict whether they could convince Pyongyang to scrap its atomic arsenal.
Chun Yung-woo, South Korea's lead negotiator, said talks, in their third day on Wednesday, would continue until the end of Friday.
He said "substantive discussions" were ongoing, but did not elaborate.
The talks, grouping the two Koreas, the US, Japan, Russia and China, are the first in more than a year.
Chun said: "It is difficult to see the situation only optimistically because the talks resumed after twists and turns including a long hibernation, the North's nuclear test and UN sanctions."

Chun said the only accomplishment so far was that "understanding of the key elements of the disagreements in each of the parties has become clearer".

New consensus

The other five parties all want to see the North take steps towards implementing an accord agreed in September 2005, in which it agreed in principle to give up its nuclear arms in exchange for aid, diplomatic recognition and security guarantees.

Li Zhaoxing, China's foreign minister, who met chief delegates on Wednesday in Beijing, said a "new consensus" had been reached at the talks, but the agreement appeared to break no new ground.

He said: "All parties reaffirm that they will implement the September 19 joint statement, they reaffirm that they will resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula through dialogue and peace and they reaffirm that they will uphold the aim of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."

US blamed

"This is clear proof that it is seeking to vanquish [North Korea] with a military strong arm, whetting its sword of aggression under the mask of dialogue"

Commentary in Rodong Sinmun, North Korean daily

North Korea meanwhile has kept up its stance that the hostile US policy is to blame for its decision to pursue nuclear weapons.

A commentary published in state media on Wednesday said joint US-South Korea military preparations showed the US was "trying to pull a dirty business against the [North] behind the curtain of talks."

"This is clear proof that it is seeking to vanquish [North Korea] with a military strong arm, whetting its sword of aggression under the mask of dialogue," the main Rodong Sinmun newspaper wrote in a commentary, quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Security guarantee

The US delegation has refused to release details of any proposals it has put to North Korea.

However, a report from South Korea's Yonhap news agency suggested Hill had outlined a process whereby the North would first freeze its nuclear programme, followed by inspections and eventual dismantlement.

North Korea's envoy says all sanctions
must end [GALLO/GETTY]
In return, according to sources quoted by Yonhap, Washington would be willing to give the North a written security guarantee as soon as it allows the return of international nuclear inspectors.

At talks in September 2005, North Korea agreed to a plan of action under which it would end its nuclear programme in exchange for security guarantees, diplomatic recognition and aid.

But just days before that agreement, the Bush administration blacklisted a Macau bank where the North Korean government held accounts, alleging it was complicit in the North's alleged counterfeiting of US currency and money laundering.

In protest, the North walked out of the six-party talks, stalling negotiations for the past 13 months.

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