NKorea Nuke Talks End Without Deadline

Arms negotiators failed Friday to set a firm deadline for how North Korea will follow the shutdown of its reactor by disabling the facilities, only agreeing to more consultations on Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament.

NKorea Nuke Talks End Without Deadline
Chinese envoy Wu Dawei said working groups would meet before the end of August to discuss technical details for the North's next steps: declaring and disabling its nuclear programs. Those sessions would be followed by top envoys from all six countries resuming talks in early September to "work out the roadmap."

At the latest round, the North "reiterated that it will earnestly implement its commitments to a complete declaration of all nuclear programs and disablement of all existing nuclear facilities," Wu said.

The statement after three days of talks in Beijing failed to include any deadline for the North to actually proceed with those steps, as the U.S. had sought at the start of the talks.

The U.S. insisted earlier Friday that North Korea could still disable its nuclear facilities by the end of the year, a deadline the main American envoy had hoped would be put in writing this week.

"Ultimately, we decided not to put in deadlines—yet," Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said. "We'll put in deadlines when we have the working groups and we know precisely what we're talking about."

The U.S. diplomat made an effort to appear upbeat, adding: "My opinion remains the same that all of this is quite doable by the end of the year."

But he acknowledged that further disarmament steps involved technical questions that were beyond his expertise.

"There will be continued diplomacy," White House spokesman Tony Snow said in Washington. "The North Koreans understand that they need to finish the job not only of shutting down the Yongbyon reactor, but also making sure that they put an end to the reprocessing or enrichment of uranium or other fissile materials.

South Korea also sought to put a positive spin on the meeting.

"The biggest achievement of this round of talks is that North Korea clearly stated its position that it has no intention of dragging its feet in carrying out its obligations," Seoul's envoy Chun Yung-woo said.

But Japan—which has refused to provide any energy aid to the North under earlier agreements until Pyongyang addresses a dispute over abductions of Japanese citizens—expressed its disappointment with the latest session's results.

"We will find out when we get there, but it is impossible to be satisfied with North Korean actions," envoy Kenichiro Sasae said.

North Korea has begun receiving 50,000 tons of oil from South Korea as a reward for shutting down its reactor at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang. It is to eventually receive the equivalent of a total of 1 million tons for disabling its nuclear facilities under a February agreement among the six countries at the talks—China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas.

Hill said Pyongyang had incentives to move forward to get the promised aid.

"Further fuel oil is contingent on further denuclearization," he said.

The reactor shutdown was the first step North Korea has taken to scale back its nuclear ambitions since the crisis began in late 2002, when a 1994 disarmament deal fell apart and the North reactivated its reactor to produce plutonium for bombs. Confirming it could build a weapon, the North conducted its first-ever nuclear test detonation in October.

AP

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Temmuz 2007, 09:43
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