China worked late into the night Wednesday trying to salvage stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. Chinese officials circulated a fourth draft of a proposed joint statement, but several delegates say the North Koreans are still refusing to compromise.
After nine days of negotiations, some delegates said they felt the talks might be nearly over.
All six chief negotiators had been expected to meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss a new Chinese proposal for a joint statement. That meeting did not take place, but Chinese officials hosted a series of talks with the different sides trying to break the impasse.
Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. envoy to the talks, told reporters Wednesday afternoon he feels the U.S. team has done nearly all it can, though he still hopes an agreement can be reached.
"I think we're really getting to the end of the negotiating process. I'm not going to predict that it's over today or tomorrow but certainly I think we are getting to the end," he said.
Mr. Hill says North Korea is the only country unwilling to accept the latest joint statement prepared by the Chinese.
The negotiations, which include North and South Korea, the United States, Russia, Japan and China, are aimed at persuading the Pyongyang government to give up its nuclear weapons program.
The U.S. envoy praised the Chinese delegation for its hard work and commitment to helping resolve the nuclear standoff. Earlier he said the latest draft statement was a good deal for the North Koreans.
Wednesday night Mr. Hill said the North Koreans have to make up their minds.
"I mean clearly this is a country suffering from a profound number of problems and none of these problems can be solved with nuclear weapons," he added. "Nuclear weapons are not going to pave their roads, they're not going to build health care, they're not going to build schools. So, again, they have to make this decision."
The talks are expected to continue Thursday with China working closely with the North Koreans in a last ditch effort to bring them on board.