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Pessimism Begins to Overtake North Korean Nuclear Talks

  • Benjamin Sand

Negotiators trying to resolve the North Korea nuclear dispute say they have failed to make progress after a week of talks. Frustration is being voiced openly in Beijing, after a week of cautiously positive assessments.

After yet another day without progress, delegates to the six-party nuclear talks shared their mounting frustration with the news media.

North Korea's top envoy, Kim Kye Gwan, spoke to the press for the first time since the talks resumed on July 26.

Standing outside the North Korean embassy, Mr. Kim told reporters the negotiations are not going well.

Mr. Kim says the talks lasted for a number of hours without progress. He says many differences and confrontations over specific issues still exist, but he says North Korea will do its best to reach an agreement.

Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. envoy to the talks, has been cautiously positive until now, but he echoed Mr. Kim's report of lack of progress.

"I must say, to be frank, there are lots of differences," he said. "We are very much committed to negotiating, to working through dialogue, but I need to be clear that there are a lot of differences between the North Korea side on the one hand and everyone else on the other hand."

Everyone expressed a willingness to continue the talks, but even the South Koreans, who have consistently tried to put the best face on the talks, were sounding cautious.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon, head of the Seoul delegation:

Mr. Song says all the cards are on the table now, and the delegates are using all their wisdom to match the cards, but they are running out of wisdom.

China has taken the lead in drafting a joint statement and operational framework for resolving the standoff over North Korea's nuclear programs.

Despite several drafts from the Chinese, however, the six parties - which also include Russia and Japan - have failed to find enough common ground for a joint statement.

The purpose of the negotiations is to persuade North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons completely. Delegates say the North Koreans have presented a growing list of demands, and have refused to budge on any of them.