Nuke talks hit snag, extended by a day

By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-20 06:52

Chief delegates to the Six-Party Talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue yesterday failed to set an expected deadline for Pyongyang's next denuclearization steps, pushing negotiations into a third day.

The talks were originally scheduled to end yesterday. The six negotiators met in the morning as well as holding several rounds of bilateral consultations in the afternoon.

However, prospects appeared dim for getting Pyongyang to commit today to a specific deadline to declare all its nuclear programs and disable its nuclear facilities .

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Washington had said it hoped the DPRK would do so by the end of the year.

Despite that, US chief negotiator Christopher Hill said that working groups will probably meet next month to discuss technical details on how to proceed before a deadline is set.

According to Hill, the talks were being extended by a day for the sides to meet with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi before wrapping up with a chairman's statement from the Chinese hosts.

With the first-phase actions in place, the delegates were discussing the second phase, which entails the DPRK declaring all of its nuclear programs and disabling all of its nuclear facilities in exchange for the provision of further assistance equivalent to 950,000 tons of fuel oil, on top of the initial supply of 50,000 tons.

Hill said the US would be involved in heavy fuel oil assistance, and that it is also open to ideas about humanitarian aid.

"I think we have an open mind about looking at some of these humanitarian issues and seeing if more can be done," he said.

In a further blow to the disarmament process, the DPRK slammed Japan for raising at the six-nation talks the issue of Japanese that the country has admitted to abducting - warning that it could pose "another crisis" in the drawn-out negotiations.

If Japan continues to refuse to participate in aid being offered for DPRK's denuclearization, "the nuclear issue on the peninsula will remain unsettled for an indefinite period," the DPRK Foreign Ministry was quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Pyongyang's angry statement on the abduction issue came yesterday just hours after a one-hour one-on-one meeting between the DPRK and Japanese envoys during the nuclear talks.

Japan and the DPRK have been at odds over the abductions, with Tokyo refusing to help fund any of the energy supplies Pyongyang is to receive for its disarmament until it is resolved.

Despite the apparent setbacks, Chun Yung-woo, the ROK's chief negotiator, said the countries reached a "consensus" on sideline meetings for working groups on technical details of the DPRK's disarmament. Based on those results, the sides believe a firm deadline for the declaration and disabling could be established, Chun said.

Agencies-China Daily

(China Daily 07/20/2007 page1)

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