SIX-PARTY KOREAN NUCLEAR TALKS GET NO FURTHER


2004.03.02
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The six nations that took part in diplomatic negotiations in Beijing aimed at defusing the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program have expressed mixed views over the second round of talks, which ended with little progress, RFA reports.

However, diplomats from North and South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the United States did issue a joint statement in Beijing Saturday in support of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and a pledge to meet again later in the year.

China, which has made its debut in pro-active statesmanship with the brokering of the negotiations, said in an official media commentary that lack of trust between Pyongyang and Washington prevented any breakthrough during the talks, which ended Saturday.

"Lack of trust was the main reason behind major differences between North Korea and the United States," according to an article in the official Communist Party People's Daily newspaper Sunday.

"Only with more direct contacts can both sides gradually establish mutual trust and fuel hopes of finding a peaceful solution regarding the nuclear issue," it said. However, it said the talks had laid the groundwork for a future solution.

North Korea blamed the United States for taking a hard line during the talks, with diplomats vowing not to negotiate with Pyongyang.

"The United States also came out with the absurd assertion that it cannot embark on normalizing its relations with us even after we abandon all our nuclear plans unless other issues�to include missiles, conventional weapons, biochemical weapons, and human rights issues�are settled," North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement issued after the talks.

"From the beginning, instead of a sincere attitude for resolving the issue, the U.S. side said, without reservation, that they did not intend to negotiate with us," the statement said.

Washington is insisting on an explicit acknowledgment of North Korea's uranium program as part of an agreement to a complete and verifiable dismantling of its weapons programs, before it is offered the aid and security guarantees it seeks. That Pyongyang has a plutonium program is already widely acknowledged.

Japan said the meeting was "tough," but said it still had faith in the six-nations process. "Japan will not change its position and will remain tenacious during future talks," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday.

"I understand that [it] was a very tough meeting, but we were able to agree on holding the next round of talks," Koizumi said after meeting the leader of the Japanese delegation Mitoji Yabunaka.

Chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda said the agreement to form working-level groups, and to reconvene before June, "shows that the six-nation framework has been institutionalized... I think we can say that was a step forward," he told a news conference.

North Korea made an 11th-hour rejection of language in a proposed statement, prolonging the talks for hours and preventing the parties from signing a joint declaration. Pyongyang also repeated its denial that it had an enriched uranium weapons program.

Russian deputy foreign minister Alexander Losyukov, who led the Russian delegation to Beijing, appeared to be the most pessimistic, saying that a continued lack of progress could lead to a point where "military intervention becomes a possibility."#####

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