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Conclusion to North, South Korea Talks Delayed - 2003-04-29

Negotiators for North and South Korea were struggling late Tuesday to draft a statement wrapping up three days of talks in Pyongyang. The problem appeared to be references to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

A South Korean official told reporters Tuesday that North Korea had agreed to include the nuclear issue in the joint statement but had not approved the wording. That led the talks to go on well into the evening in Pyongyang.

The talks, which began Sunday evening, were to have finished late Tuesday afternoon. South Korean delegates pressed the North to pledge to give up any nuclear weapons programs it might have. A nuclear arms program would violate several international accords Pyongyang has signed to be nuclear free, including a pact with Seoul.

The inter-Korean talks took place just days after North Korea, the United States and China met in Beijing last week. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Tuesday said Beijing has no information that Pyongyang admitted during the meeting to having nuclear weapons.

Mr. Liu said that according to his knowledge, North Korea did not make such a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Powell on Monday said Pyongyang had admitted having certain weapons programs at the Beijing talks. Mr. Powell said North Korea indicated it was willing to give up its nuclear capability for "something considerable" in return. He said the offer is being studied.

A State Department spokesman said the North Koreans were told last week that there needs to be a "verifiable and irreversible termination" of their nuclear weapons program before the United States would consider increased aid and diplomatic recognition.

North Korea, on Tuesday, said future talks would be a waste of time if Washington continues to insist that Pyongyang first abandon its suspected nuclear weapons programs. Official North Korean media called on the United States give up what it calls a hostile policy toward Pyongyang.

Last October, the United States said North Korea admitted having a secret nuclear weapons program. Since then, Pyongyang has withdrawn from the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, expelled nuclear inspectors and reopened idled facilities that can produce fuel for nuclear bombs.

It demands that Washington sign a non-aggression pact before it will address the nuclear issue. The United States has insisted the weapons program must be ended before other issues can be addressed.