No sign of breakthrough at nuke talks
Updated: 2006-12-22 11:23
Top US envoy for the six-party talks
Christopher Hill (L) speaks to media in Beijing December 21, 2006.
Six-party talks on scrapping North Korea's nuclear weapons were set to
gain momentum on Thursday after the chief US negotiator raised guarded
hopes of agreement by week's end on preliminary steps towards that goal.
The US envoy to six-party talks on
dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program said Friday that there were no
signs of a breakthrough in the talks and accused the North of not being serious
about the negotiations.
there were any indications of a breakthrough after four days of negotiations, US
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said, "No, I am not aware of any."
Hill said Friday would be the final day of talks and that he planned to
leave China on Saturday. However, the Chinese six-party press center said it was
still uncertain when the talks would conclude.
Japanese envoy Kenichiro
Sasae said delegates would consider dropping the current format involving six
countries at a meeting later Friday.
"There will be opinions questioning
the credibility of the six-party talks," Sasae said, without elaborating. He did
not say what alternative formats would be proposed, if any.
Japan would "continue to make efforts so that North Korea will acknowledge the
importance of this opportunity and realize this if they lose this chance they
will face an even more difficult situation."
Sasae stopped short of
declaring the six-party process a failure, saying it was "too early" to say
Since the talks began Monday in the wake of North Korea's October
9 nuclear test, the North has refused to get into substantive discussions on its
atomic weapons, envoys said. Instead, the North has complained about the US
blacklisting a Macau bank, where North Korea allegedly laundered money to help
fund its weapons programs.
"When the DPRK raises problems, one day it's
financial issues, another day it's something they want but they know they can't
have, another day it's something we said about them that hurt their feelings,"
Hill said. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the
North's official name.
"What they need to do is to get serious about the
issue that made them such a problem ... their nuclear activities," he said.
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said North Korea had
given the United States no reason to believe it is serious about dismantling its
nuclear weapons. "That's what we're testing" in the disarmament talks, she said
in an Associated Press interview Thursday.
South Korean envoy Chun
Yung-woo said Friday that any meaningful success at the current round of talks
depends on "what position North Korea brings today."
"There are many
fundamental differences in opinions, but we are exchanging opinions and exerting
efforts to narrow the gap in opinions," Chun said.
Hill late Thursday
said the financial restrictions were a defense against weapons proliferation,
warning Pyongyang would find itself further economically isolated if it doesn't
He also said the North Korean delegation had apparently been
instructed by superiors to resolve the financial issue before talking about
American and North Korean experts consulted on the
financial restrictions for two days this week in Beijing separately from the
nuclear talks, but made no breakthroughs and were possibly meeting again next
month in New York.
"The situation remains severe and there is no
prospect for a breakthrough," Japan's Sasae said late Thursday. "North Korea's
claims and its position on financial issues are very firm and inflexible and
that is the biggest cause of the difficulty."
The North has maintained
it needs nuclear weapons because of the "hostile" policy of the United States,
citing issues including the financial campaign, criticism of North Korea's human
rights record and US-South Korean joint military exercises.
South Korean lawmaker said Thursday there were signs North Korea could conduct
another nuclear test.
Rep. Chung Hyung-keun of the main opposition Grand
National Party, a former intelligence official, said North Korea dug two
underground tunnels at a mountain in the country's northeast and used one of
them for its earlier nuclear test.
"There has been brisk activity since
this month" at the other tunnel, he said.
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