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North Korean Nuclear Disarmament Talks Enter Sixth Day

  • Heda Bayron

Negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear programs are continuing for a sixth day in Beijing, with Pyongyang again signaling that it will rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and accept international inspections, if the current standoff is resolved.

Negotiators at talks on the North Korean nuclear issue Sunday were still at odds over some elements of a joint statement of "agreed principles."

Host China proposed a text for the principles Saturday, and diplomats hope it will form the basis of a final agreement to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to the talks, says the Chinese proposal is a "good basis" for further negotiations, but more discussions are needed.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill
"We're going to try to sit down and give each other ideas to try to build a final text," he said. "These things take time. Different countries have different viewpoints on them. But I'm pleased we're operating off one piece of paper now."

Differences remain over the definition of a "denuclearized" Korean Peninsula. Officials say the Pyongyang interpretation seems to include the U.S. "nuclear umbrella," an apparent reference to Washington's defense obligations with its long-time allies, South Korea and Japan.

Mr. Hill indicates his delegation needs to iron out differences on this matter with the North, also referred to as the DPRK. The two sides have held several one-on-one meetings over the past week.

"We do have a consensus on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and this is, I think, something that everyone understood," he said. "But of course there's some other elements, the DRPK, especially, has emphasis on some other elements. So, we'll have to see how we do."

As the diplomats were talking in Beijing, North Korean state media said Sunday Pyongyang would rejoin the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and again allow U.N. inspections, if the current dispute is resolved.

Pyongyang abandoned the treaty in 2003, shortly after the United States said the North was operating a secret nuclear program in violation of international agreements.

But North Korea's position on how to resolve the issue remains far from that of the United States and the other parties to the talks - South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, with the so-called "sequencing" issue one of the main stumbling blocks.

Pyongyang has insisted that Washington first normalize diplomatic relations, give security guarantees and remove any U.S. nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, before it abandons its own nuclear arms. Seoul and Washington deny there are any such weapons in the South.

The United States and the other parties want Pyongyang to completely and verifiably disarm before giving any concessions.

The current round of talks - the fourth since 2003 - resumed Tuesday after a 13-month long boycott by North Korea.

Also on Sunday, North and South Korea agreed to formally open rail and road links in the next few months as part of reconciliation efforts. The deal was reached after three days of talks in the North's border city of Kaesong.

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