BEIJING - US and North Korean diplomats met face-to-face Tuesday to discuss
international efforts to get the country to give up its nuclear arms program and
the North Korea's demand for Washington to stop trying to freeze it out of the
global banking system.
On Wednesday, the main US
envoy at the latest round of six-nation talks called on delegates to start
hashing out the substantive details of North Korean nuclear disarmament if they
hoped to make any progress this week.
North Korean soldiers look at the photographer on the bank of
the Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju December 18, 2006.
US officials gave no indication of any progress after the first two days of
talks. The negotiations have failed over more than three years of meetings to
dismantle the North Korea's atomic weapons program - or prevent its first
nuclear test explosion Oct. 9.
"We don't have really any breakthroughs to report," US Assistant Secretary of
State Christopher Hill said Tuesday after meeting with a North Korean delegation
on the nuclear weapons issue. Financial experts discussed the banking
restrictions separately. Hill was hold a second one-on-one meeting with the
North Koreans Wednesday.
Hill has declined to release details of any US proposals to North Korea, but
a news report Wednesday said the Americans had outlined a process whereby
Pyongyang would first freeze its nuclear program, followed by inspections and
Washington would be willing to give the North a written security
guarantee - a pledge that it wouldn't seek to topple the government by
force - as soon as it allows the return of international nuclear
inspectors, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said, citing "diplomatic sources"
at the talks.
South Korean nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo declined to confirm specifics,
but said the ideas were simply "an official detailed and concrete proposal" of
what the sides had previously discussed.
Before the start of the third day of meetings Wednesday, Hill stressed that
delegates from the six countries - China, Japan, Russia, the US and the two
Koreas - should start working on a draft agreement if they hoped to make
any progress at this round.
"If we are going to get to the end of the week and have something tangible, I
think we probably need to be working at something on paper in the very near
future," he said.
Earlier, he said a failure in the talks could lead to more sanctions against
North Korea entered the talks by restating its long-held demands,
emboldened by its confirmed nuclear status and raising doubts about chances for
a quick resolution of the standoff that began in late 2002.
The impoverished country pledged in September 2005 to abandon its
nuclear arms program in exchange for security guarantees, diplomatic recognition
and economic aid.
But just days before that agreement, the US blacklisted a Macau bank where
the Pyongyang government held accounts, charging it was aiding the
country's alleged counterfeiting of US$100 bills and money laundering. The US
also urged other countries to bar North Korean accounts.