US denies 'deal' with N Korea

Envoy rejects report of deal as six-nation nuclear talks resume in Beijing.

    Hill said bilateral talks in January with the North were useful but no deal was signed [Reuters]
    Any progress, however, would be determined by the attitude of the US side, he added.
    "We are going to make a judgment based on whether the United States will give up its hostile policy and come out toward peaceful coexistence,'' Kim said.
    The US, he said, was "well-aware" of what it had to do, adding there were still "many points of confrontation to resolve".

    Several rounds of six-party talks have yet
    to produce significant progress [AFP]

    Envoys from Japan, Russia, China, the US and the two Koreas began their first round of talks on Thursday
    The talks are held behind closed doors at a Chinese government guesthouse, but a South Korean report said one of the first topics of discussion would be a draft disarmament plan presented by China.
    According to South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed source, the plan calls for the North to shut down its main nuclear reactor within a few months in exchange for energy aid.

    Nuclear negotiations

    August: First round of six-party talks in Beijing. North Korea issues plan to help reduce tensions, but talks fail to produce an agreement

    February: Second round of talks make no significant progress

    June: Third round of talks discusses scope, time, and method of verification for disarming North Korea. Again no agreement is made

    September: At a fourth round of talks all parties agree plan of action under which North Korea would end its nuclear programme in exchange for aid and security guarantees

    North Korea subsequently demands a civilian light-water reactor; a demand rejected by the US and Japan

    October 9: North Korea conducts first nuclear weapon test

    December: Fifth round of talks end in deadlock. North Korea insists US financial sanctions end as a precondition to disarmament talks

    A report in Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper on Thursday said the US and North Korean envoys had signed a memorandum at talks in January agreeing that the North's first steps towards denuclearisation should be tied to the start of US deliveries of energy aid.
    The report, quoting unnamed North Korean and US sources, said under the memorandum the North had agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and allow UN inspections of its nuclear plants.
    In return, the paper said, the US had pledged energy and humanitarian assistance.
    Hill, however, denied that the Berlin meeting had produced any such agreement.
    "Although it was a very useful discussion, we did not sign anything," he said.
    Nonetheless, Hill said he was optimistic of progress at the latest round of talks.
    "If we're successful we could get to the point where we are discussing technical matters at working groups," he said.

    North Korea's envoy says there are many
    issues of confrontation to overcome [AFP]

    Although the US led calls for United Nations sanctions in the wake of North Korea's first nuclear weapon test last October, it has since engaged in a series of diplomatic moves to persuade the North to disarm.
    Since they began in 2003, the six-party negotiations process has produced only a single agreement - a 2005 joint statement under which the North agrees to abandon its nuclear programme in return for aid and pledges that Washington would not seek to topple the government.
    Implementing that plan, however, has proved the sticking point.
    At the last round of talks, held in Beijing in December, North Korea insisted no progress could be made without the lifting of US financial sanctions.
    The US, for its part, has argued that the sanctions must be dealt with as a separate issue.
    With the credibility of the six-party process at stake, negotiators have said it is important this latest round of talks takes the first steps towards bringing the 2005 plan into reality.
    Chun Yung-woo, South Korea's envoy to the talks, said the process had reached an "important crossroads" and needed to move beyond words to actions.

    "Joint efforts, wisdom and flexibility from all six countries are badly needed now more than any other time,'' he said.
    No deadline has been set for this round of talks, but Hill said the Chinese hosts expected the talks to last a few days and the sides would start reviewing a draft agreement on Friday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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