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China's new North Korea proposal praised
Updated: 2005-09-19 09:14

The main U.S. envoy to North Korea nuclear talks said Sunday a new Chinese proposal allowing the North to keep its civilian nuclear program after disarming was a positive step, and the six nations negotiating the draft would discuss it Monday.

Christopher Hill, U.S. top U.S. negotiator for the six-party talks, speaks to journalists before continuation of talks in Beijing September 18, 2005. [Reuters]
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said the negotiations aimed at persuading the North to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions would end Monday whether an agreement was reached or not.

"It's a good draft for all concerned, and I think it's especially a really great opportunity for" North Korea, Hill said.

Still, he declined to speculate about the outcome of the talks, saying only that negotiations were continuing and all sides would meet Monday morning to respond to the Chinese proposal.

When asked if there could be an agreement Monday, Hill answered: "I hope so."

"I think the agreement makes a lot of sense," he said.

Hill did not reveal any specifics of the draft statement, which the main Russian envoy has said acknowledges the North's right to a peaceful nuclear program after it disarms. Washington has previously rejected allowing Pyongyang any nuclear program, saying its history relentlessly pursuing a nuclear bomb means it can't be trusted.

"The draft proposed by China was an effort to breach remaining differences," Hill said. He called the proposal "a good effort to try to bridge the remaining differences, which I believe are difficult but certainly not insurmountable."

North and South Korea, Japan, the U.S., China and Russia are all parties to the talks.

North Korea has not directly commented on the proposal, but after it was put forward Friday, a spokesman for the North denounced efforts to get it to give up its nuclear program without concessions by the United States.

Participants have offered economic aid, security guarantees from Washington and free electricity from South Korea to North Korea in exchange for dismantling its weapons program.

The North has demanded it be given a light-water nuclear reactor for generating electricity before disarming, promising to open such a facility to co-management and international inspections.

Pyongyang was promised two light-water reactors under a 1994 deal that fell apart in late 2002. Such reactors are less easily diverted for weapons use.

"There is still a chance of reaching an agreement," Japanese envoy Kenichiro Sasae said Sunday evening, sounding a more positive note than a day before.

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