(AP) - The chief U.S. negotiator said Tuesday there had been no progress yet at renewed six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear arms program in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees.
As the disarmament talks convened Monday for the first time since the North tested a nuclear device, Pyongyang insisted it be treated as a full-fledged nuclear power. But the United States dismissed the communist regime's opening comments as unsurprising rhetoric and warned time was running out for the North to dismantle its nuclear arsenal or face sanctions, reports Trend.
"In terms of implementing the joint statement, I'd say (there was) not too much progress from yesterday," U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill told reporters early Tuesday.
Hill was referring to the North's September 2005 agreement to abandon its nuclear arms program in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees.
The U.S. negotiator said Monday he wanted to see a willingness from the North Koreans to implement their elements of the agreement.
"The supply of our patience may have exceeded the international demand for that patience, and we should be a little less patient and pick up the pace and work faster," Hill said.
Hill said he would meet separately Tuesday morning with officials from China North Korea's closest ally. All chief envoys also met Tuesday in a closed plenary session at the Chinese state guesthouse where the talks are being held.
The resumption of the talks consisting of the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas came after a more than 13-month break during which the communist North tested fired a new long-range missile in July and then set off an underground atomic blast Oct. 9.
North Korea had refused to return to the multinational talks in anger over the U.S. blacklisting of a Macau bank where Pyongyang deposited some $24 million, alleging the bank was complicit in the North's counterfeiting of $100 bills and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.
On Monday, the North again called for Washington to lift those restrictions and demanded U.N. sanctions imposed for its nuclear test explosion be lifted, according to a summary of its opening statement released by one of the delegations.
A U.S. Embassy official said American and North Korean officials started talks over the restrictions Tuesday, but gave no details on where they were being held.
The U.S. was represented by Daniel Glaser, the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes. The North Korean delegation was led by O Kwang Chol, president of the North's Foreign Trade Bank of Korea. Japanese negotiator Kenichiro Sasae told reporters earlier Tuesday that U.S.-North Korea discussions over the sanctions might help lift the mood of the nuclear talks.
The North demanded again Monday that it be given a nuclear reactor for electricity generation and also that its struggling economy get other help in meeting its energy needs until the reactor is built.
Pyongyang repeated its assertion that it be considered a nuclear weapons power and that the talks be transformed into negotiations over mutual arms reductions in which it would be accorded equal footing with the United States. If its demands aren't met, the North said, it would increase its nuclear arsenal, according to the summary.
But the United States and other countries stressed the main focus would be on getting the North Korean regime to give up atomic arms.
"We would like denuclearization via a diplomatic negotiation. If they don't want that, we're quite prepared to go the other road ... which is a pretty tough road," Hill said, implying North Korea could face further international sanctions.
In Washington, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns brushed off the North's opening salvo as no surprise.
"If past is prologue, I mean that's the way the North Koreans operate," he said. "Let's see where we are by the end of the week."
China, the North's key benefactor, noted the sides had some "very pronounced differences" but pushed for results.
"We have finished the stage of commitment for commitment and now should follow the principle of action for action," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu told reporters, echoing phrasing from the earlier agreement.
South Korean nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo proposed that the parties push for implementing the 2005 agreement within a few months.
"We urged North Korea to take bold and substantial initial steps to dismantle its nuclear program and stressed that the other five countries' corresponding measures should also be bold and substantial," he told reporters.
The latest North Korean nuclear crisis erupted in 2002 after U.S. officials said the North had admitted to a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 disarmament deal, leading to the communist nation's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
North Korea is believed to have enough radioactive material to make about a half-dozen atomic bombs, and its main nuclear reactor remains in operation to create more weapons-grade plutonium.