BEIJING - Talks on North Korea's
nuclear program were likely to be extended a day in a possible sign of narrowing
differences, a South Korean official said Monday, as envoys lay responsibility
for resolving the long-running standoff solely on Pyongyang.
US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, left,
speaks to reporters in Beijing, China, Monday, Feb. 12, 2007.
the previous four days, the six-country talks in Beijing have stalled over
disagreements on energy assistance for the North in exchange for its abandonment
of nuclear weapons.
"It is up to the North Koreans. We have put everything on the table. We have
offered a way forward on a number of issues. They just need to make a decision,"
US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters before Monday's
session, which he said would be the last day of talks.
But later after a series of meetings between delegations, a South Korean
official said negotiations were expected to be extended another day.
"Consultations among the countries are under way in a more sincere manner,"
the official said on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing diplomacy. "The
talks are expected to continue tomorrow although China has not yet made any
The current round of six-nation talks began on a promising note after the
United States and North Korea signaled a willingness to compromise. But
negotiations quickly became mired on the energy issue.
The negotiations - which include the two Koreas, the US, Japan, China and
Russia - have plodded on intermittently for more than three years.
Adding pressure on the delegates was a sense that failure to reach an
agreement this time could permanently doom the talks.
"There's a certain life cycle to these negotiations," Hill said Monday. If
North Korea rejects the current proposal, the American diplomat speculated that
there would "be some political climate change, if not in the US, then maybe
among some other countries."
But he added, "I don't want to predict that this is the last chance."
Negotiators had hoped the latest round would result in North Korea taking its
first concrete steps in dismantling its nuclear program, an issue that became
especially critical after the North conducted its first nuclear test explosion
The issue that had previously stalled the talks - US financial restrictions
against a Macau bank with North Korean accounts - was not an obstacle this time.
Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported Monday that the US told North Korea
last month it is prepared to proclaim that US$11 million in Pyongyang's assets
at the bank was legitimately earned, and was not related to alleged North Korean
crimes including counterfeiting and money laundering.
The move would allow the money to be released from accounts frozen after
Washington blacklisted the bank in 2005.