U.S. nuclear envoy: NKorea nuclear talks could end in days, possibly without agreement | VailDaily.com

U.S. nuclear envoy: NKorea nuclear talks could end in days, possibly without agreement

Associated Press

BEIJING – Delegates to North Korean disarmament talks said Wednesday they were approaching the final stages of discussions but that a resolution to the dispute over the communist nation’s nuclear weapons program ultimately lay in its own hands.As meetings entered a ninth day, envoys from the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia were preparing to review the latest draft of principles crafted by host China meant to move the stalled negotiations forward.Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy, said Wednesday that agreeing to the text is something North Korea is “going to decide on their own. They’re not going to listen to pressure from me.””In a very real sense, (North Korea) really does stand at a crossroads and they can look forward to a brighter future, a more secure future, a more prosperous future,” Hill said. “But they really can’t do it with nuclear weapons. They’ve really got to get off that.”The North has insisted that it doesn’t want to give up its nuclear program without receiving anything first, while Washington is wary of Pyongyang’s promises and instead wants to see the weapons verifiably eliminated before giving any rewards.Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, commenting in Tokyo on the talks to a parliamentary committee Wednesday, said disputes were centered on to what extent the North’s nuclear program should be dismantled and whether it should retain the right to peaceful use of nuclear technology.”We are approaching the final stage,” Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s chief negotiator, said in Beijing. “We are doing our most to reach an agreement, but much depends on North Korea’s attitude.”Hill said the draft is “really designed to narrow the differences and maybe, maybe even get to the point where we can really agree on something.”Song Min-soon, South Korea’s representative, said the text includes a clause about normalizing Pyongyang’s relations with Washington and Tokyo – a sticking point in previous rounds.The draft “contains items North Korea wants in return for dismantling its nuclear program … the part about normalizing relations is certainly included,” Song said.”I expect positive responses,” he said, adding the draft “makes every country a winner.”In February, the North claimed it had nuclear weapons and has since taken steps that would allow it to harvest more plutonium for possible use in bombs. Many experts believe the North already has enough weapons-grade material for about a half-dozen atomic weapons.In its first public statement since the talks began, Pyongyang said Tuesday that it wants to narrow differences with the United States but also insisted it won’t give up its atomic weapons program until Washington withdraws alleged threats.”Our decision is to give up nuclear weapons and programs related to nuclear weapons, if the United States removes its nuclear threat against us, and when trust is built,” Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan said outside his country’s embassy in Beijing.It wasn’t clear when the talks – now lasting three times longer than three previous rounds – will end. Hill said Tuesday that it may be a matter of days.U.S. officials said in late 2002 that the North admitted violating a 1994 deal by embarking on a secret uranium enrichment program, sparking the latest nuclear crisis.Vail, Colorado

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