Six-Party talks end without disarmament deadline

Updated: 2007-07-20 19:50

The Six-Party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue ended on Friday with a schedule for the next round of negotiations, but without a disarmament deadline.

Delegates attending the meeting decided to convene in early September for another round of talks and the five working groups will meet by the end of August to discuss technical details concerning the disablement of the nuclear facilities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Wu Dawei, head of the Chinese delegation to the Six-Party talks, also representing the other five parties -- Japan, Russia, the United States, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK), released a press communique as a chairman's statement concluding the session that lasted two-and-a-half days.

The parties reiterated that they would "earnestly fulfill their commitments" in the landmark September 2005 Joint Statement and the February 13 agreement brokered this year taken as an initial action to implement the 2005 statement, says the press communique.

"The two documents are very significant and serve as guidelines for resolving the nuclear crisis," said Tao Wenzhao, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), adding the talks have released three major documents, including Friday's communique, and five chairman's statements since the talks initiated in 2003.

"The 2005 Statement completed the process of 'promise for promise', and Friday's press communique enters the issue into a real action stage," said Tao.

The communique says the DPRK reiterated that it would "earnestly implement its commitment to a complete declaration of all nuclear programs and disablement of all existing nuclear facilities".

Economic, energy and humanitarian assistance up to the equivalent of 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil will be provided to the DPRK, it says.

All parties undertook to fulfill their respective obligations as listed in the Joint Statement and February agreement in line with the principle of "action for action", it stated.

Five working groups over issues such as a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, normalization of relations among countries involved, establishment of a peace and security mechanism in northeast Asia and economic and energy cooperation, will convene respectively in August, the parties agreed.

Observers believe the meeting between the head delegates this week instilled a great confidence in the working groups which are dealing with "a great many technical specifications" such as how to declare nuclear programs, how to permanently disable the facilities and the sequence of the provision of heavy fuel oil.

"Only after efforts from the working groups can a disarmament timetable become real," said Pu Jianyi, head of the Asian and Pacific institute under the CASS.

Although the DPRK made no comment on the talks, it had held three one-on-one meetings with the United States on the sidelines of the talks. All chief negotiators held bilateral consultations as soon as they arrived in Beijing.

Envoys will meet in Beijing in early September for the second session of the sixth round of talks to hear working group reports and work out a road map for the implementation of the general consensus nailed down in the meeting this week.

The session in September is likely to produce action plans for the second phase of the denuclearization after nearly one and a half months of hard work by the working groups, said Tao.

Following the second session, the six nations' foreign ministers will meet "as soon as possible to confirm and promote" the implementation of the Joint Statement, February agreement and the general consensus, and "explore ways and means to enhance security cooperation in northeast Asia", the communique says.

Before the talks, a concrete disarmament deadline was highly anticipated after the DPRK finally closed all its five main nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, completing the first stage of the February agreement, which had already been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

However, the parties could not agree on a deadline to declare and disable all its nuclear facilities. But Hill said he still believed the DPRK could complete disablement before the end of the year as expected, and was pleased with what had been accomplished, describing the meeting as "the best one" he had attended.

"The time is not ripe for an agreement on the deadline," said Tao Wenzhao.

Tao's view was echoed by Li Dunqiu, another CASS researcher, who believes it will become harder to push forward the process when the talks address specific details, such as how to dismantle the reactor.

Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi met six envoys before the closing of the session.

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