"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

"I just don't know where we are going to end up or when we are going to end up."

No end date has been set for the current round of six-nation talks, bringing together North and South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the US.

Hill said it was important for all parties to begin drafting an agreement on paper this week to prevent the talks from breaking down.

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

North Korea's envoy says all sanctions
must end [GALLO/GETTY]
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 program, followed by inspections and eventual dismantlement.

In return, according to sources quotes 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.

Hill was expected to hold a second session of one-on-one talks with the North Korean envoy on Wednesday, before all the heads of delegation gather for a joint meeting with the Chinese foreign minister.

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.