South Korean negotiators have delayed their departure from North Korea following three days of talks that have reportedly deadlocked on the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which the country had pledged to end in 1994. South Korean media reports say the two sides continue struggling to issue a statement on the talks, which were scheduled to end Tuesday.
The two sides had been expected to issue a statement Tuesday afternoon, at the end of the third day of ministerial talks in Pyongyang. Well into the evening, however, there was no statement, and the negotiations were continuing.
The talks appear to have stalled on the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The ministerial meeting originally was scheduled to discuss projects to promote reconciliation between the two Koreas, who have still not signed a peace treaty since the Korean War ended in 1953.
But the agenda at the talks in Pyongyang has been dominated by last week's report from the United States that North Korea has admitted to having a uranium enrichment program for use in nuclear weapons. North Korea had agreed to halt its nuclear weapons program as part of a 1994 agreement with the United States.
An angry editorial in the North Korean newspaper Rodong Shinmun Tuesday warns of strong counter-measures if the United States attempted to pressure and "stifle" the country. It accuses Washington of threatening and high-handed behavior.
But North Korea's number two leader adopted a less militant tone Monday, saying North Korea would be willing to negotiate over security concerns if the United States dropped its hostile attitude.
South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung has repeated his call for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear program.
There has been an angry backlash in South Korea against the president's policy of engaging North Korea since news about Pyongyang's weapons program game out. In the South Korean capital, Seoul, hundreds of Korean War veterans staged a protest against North Korea's nuclear program.
Washington has been building support among its allies, to exert pressure on the North. In the past week, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly has visited China, South Korea and Japan to build a common strategy toward the North. The United States says Pyongyang must dismantle its weapons program, without conditions.
Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Pyongyang to talk with the United States about the issue and to abide by its previous commitments to freeze the nuclear weapons program.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program violates a number of international and inter-Korean accords, including the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States. Under the terms of the Agreed Framework, Pyongyang pledged to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for two light water nuclear reactors power and supplies fuel oil until the reactors were completed.