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US Envoy: No Progress Yet at North Korea Nuclear Talks

The chief U.S. envoy to multi-party negotiations on North Korea's nuclear activities says the talks remain deadlocked, as Pyongyang continues to insist it has a right to pursue a civilian nuclear program.

U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill described his bilateral meeting with the North Korean delegation Wednesday as a lengthy encounter without much progress.

"It's very clear that they wanted to spend today making this sort of 'light-water reactor day,'” he said. “I hope this does not become 'light-water reactor week,' because there are not too many other ways I know how to say 'no.'"

North Korea says it needs a light-water reactor to ease its chronic energy shortage, and wants others to build it. The United States opposes the demand, given Pyongyang's past record of breaking nonproliferation agreements.

Participants in the talks, which also include China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, are aiming to finalize a joint statement of principles on which to base further negotiations on North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

Mr. Hill said he is trying to keep the negotiations focused on the agreement of principles, the Chinese written draft of which does not contain any reference to a light-water reactor.

"I have made it very clear, and I think the other delegations have made it clear, although I'll let them speak for themselves, that nobody is prepared to fund the light water reactor, and they should rather focus on the elements that are on the table and understand that those elements would be very beneficial," added Mr. Hill.

If North Korea agrees to give up its nuclear ambitions, benefits offered now include economic assistance, security guarantees, steps toward normalized relations with the United States and a proposal by South Korea to provide the North with 2,000 megawatts of electricity, things Pyongyang has said it wants.

The current set of negotiations is the continuation of an earlier round that recessed last month when sides took time out to review the draft statement prepared by China. Talks resumed Tuesday and no time limit has been set.