Pressure builds on North Korea

Talks likely to be extended a day as envoys say progress depends on North Korea.

    US envoy Christopher Hill says the ball
    is in North Korea's court [Reuters]
    "We have offered a way forward on a number of issues. They just need to make a decision."
    Hill's comments were echoed by the South Korean and Japanese envoys, both eager to see progress from the six-party process.
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    Kenichiro Sasae, the chief Japanese negotiator, said any possibility of an agreement "hangs greatly on the response, or final answer, that North Korea brings today".
    South Korea, which has taken a more accommodating line towards the North, also stepped up pressure for a deal.
    "There is no dissent among the chief delegates that we need to draw a conclusion, an outcome, today," said Chun Yung-woo, South Korea's assistant foreign minister.
    The decision to extend the talks has been seen by some as a positive sign.
    "Talks are expected to continue tomorrow because
    discussions are ongoing in depth in an ever more serious mood,"
    an unnamed South Korean official told Reuters.
    Energy aid
    The talks, which bring together envoys from the US, Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas, have stalled on disagreements over the energy assistance the North would get in return for disarming.
    Hoping to secure a last minute deal, Chinese officials met separately with the North Korean and US delegations on Monday morning.
    The US and North Korean envoys were then due to hold their own one-on-one talks.

    North Korea's nuclear programme has
    sparked protests in the South [Reuters]

    Six party talks on disarming North Korea began in 2003, but have produced little other than a draft plan under which the North would agree to end its nuclear programme in return for energy aid and security guarantees.
    However, implementing that plan, and it's exact terms, have proved the sticking point and observers say there is a growing feeling that without agreement soon the six-party format will be doomed.
    It is unclear how much energy North Korea has demanded in return for giving up its nuclear programme.
    Japan's Kyodo News agency reported on Sunday that North Korea wanted 1 million tonnes of oil annually before disarming, and 2 million tonnes every year from then on.
    The issue of US financial sanctions against the North – a previous obstacle to progress at the talks - do not appear to have proved an issue at the current round.
    On Monday Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported the US had told North Korea last month that it was prepared to declare that $11 million held in frozen North Korean accounts was legitimately earned, and was not related to alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.
    The move would allow the money to be released from accounts frozen after Washington first made the allegations in 2005.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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