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North Korean Disarmament Talks Recess With No Breakthroughs

North Korean nuclear talks have recessed in Beijing with the chief U.S. negotiator saying other participants have agreed North Korea should dismantle its programs before receiving any compensation. The three-day session ended with a modest agreement to keep working on a road map for disarmament.

This round of negotiations was meant largely to keep the process on track. In a final statement Friday, host China said all sides had agreed to keep working on steps to implement September's joint statement of principles, in which North Korea promised to dismantle its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

U.S. chief negotiator Christopher Hill said the United States rejected a North Korean proposal to "freeze" operations at its main nuclear facility after receiving compensation. Mr. Hill said Washington wanted Pyongyang's nuclear programs dismantled completely before any compensation was given.

"We don't want to get into a situation where they stop the programs - in short, freeze the programs - and then expect us to compensate them for a freeze," he said.

Delegates of China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia, and the United States hope to resume this, the fifth round of talks, "at the earliest possible date."

The six-party negotiations are meant to defuse a crisis that flared three years ago when the United States said North Korea admitted it had secretly restarted developing nuclear weapons.

At that time, the United States says, North Korean officials acknowledged that they had started a uranium enrichment program in addition to a separate plutonium-based weapons program. North Korea later denied the existence of the uranium program. Mr. Hill was asked Friday whether the North Korean delegation had now admitted to having the program.

"I can't say they did," he answered. "I think they know our position, and they know we are not going to have a nuclear deal without a resolution of that question. And I have talked to my DPRK counterpart about that and he acknowledges that that issue needs to be satisfied."

Officials kept talks short this time, saying they needed to break early in order to prepare for an upcoming APEC summit in South Korea next week.