North Korean talks extended one more day

Iran Materials 12 February 2007 12:37 (UTC +04:00)

(www.latwp.com) вЂ" Deadlocked over energy aid to North Korea, envoys to six-nation denuclearization talks decided Sunday night to give themselves one more day to come up with an agreement on the first steps toward getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The stalemate revolved around North Korea's demand for large amounts of heavy fuel oil in exchange for closing its main nuclear facility, a reactor at Yongbyon, and readmitting international inspectors as a first phase of what the Bush administration had hoped would be a long-term plan for complete denuclearization, reports Trend.

The chief U.S. envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, suggested that if North Korea obtained such a large amount of fuel upfront, it might no longer feel obligated to continue denuclearization. Some reports quoting diplomats at the talks suggested that the initial commitment demanded by North Korea amounted to 2 million tons.

``We're prepared to help the DPRK along the way, especially on economic and energy issues,'' Hill said, using the initials for North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. ``But we're not prepared to help them in a way that would allow them to avoid the next steps in denuclearization.''

The chief Russian negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, predicted that the six envoys--from North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States--would not be able to reach agreement at this round of talks despite what appeared to be favorable conditions when they began Thursday, according to the official New China News Agency.

``It's not a situation where a breakthrough is in sight,'' the chief South Korean negotiator, Chun Yung Woo, added in a conversation with reporters.

Hill said the head of the North Korean delegation, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, was expected to confer with his government in Pyongyang, the capital, overnight and return to the negotiating table Monday. Unless agreement is in sight at that meeting, Hill said, the talks will break up, adding to the long list of fruitless sessions since the negotiations began in August 2003 under Chinese sponsorship.

As he has before, Hill warned that the future of the six-party talks could be affected by such an outcome. ``I think we have a real problem if we can't come to agreement on this,'' he said.