North Korea nuclear talks end
BEIJING – The first talks on North Korea’s nuclear program since the communist nation tested an atomic device ended Friday without an agreement to move ahead on disarmament or schedule further negotiations.During five days of meetings in Beijing, negotiators said Pyongyang refused to talk about its nuclear weapons program, and instead stuck to its demand that the U.S. remove financial restrictions it has imposed on the regime.Chinese envoy Wu Dawei released a statement saying the sides simply reaffirmed a September 2005 agreement where the North pledged to disarm in exchange for security guarantees and aid. The countries – China, Japan, Russia, the U.S. and the two Koreas – agreed to return home and “reconvene at the earliest opportunity,” Wu said.Earlier, Japan’s top envoy questioned whether the talks would survive as a forum for dealing with North Korea’s weapons if they failed again to make any progress. In more than three years of meetings, the North has only committed in principle to disarm but taken no concrete steps to do so – instead going ahead with its first nuclear test on Oct. 9.”There will be opinions questioning the credibility of the six-party talks,” Kenichiro Sasae said, without elaborating. He did not say what alternative formats would be proposed, if any.The U.S. envoy accused North Korea ahead of Friday’s meetings of not addressing the actual issue of its atomic programs.”When the (North) raises problems, one day it’s financial issues, another day it’s something they want but they know they can’t have, another day it’s something we said about them that hurt their feelings,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said. “What they need to do is to get serious about the issue that made them such a problem … their nuclear activities.”Pyongyang says the U.S. is waging a campaign to isolate North Korea from the international financial system and has insisted that it end. The U.S. accuses North Korea of involvement in counterfeiting $100 bills and of money laundering, and has blacklisted a Macau bank that it alleges the North used to launder money to fund its weapons program.Negotiators say North Koreans have refused to even talk about their nuclear weapons program until the financial restrictions are dropped.American and North Korean experts had separate talks on the issue this week in Beijing, but made no breakthroughs and were tentatively set to meet in the United States next month.—Associated Press Writer Mari Yamaguchi contributed to this report.
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