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N. Korean Nuclear Talks End With Promise to Meet Again - 2003-08-29

Delegates from six nations meeting in Beijing wrapped up three-days of negotiations on North Korea's nuclear ambitions Friday. Despite harsh new rhetoric from North Korea, the talks ended with a promise to meet again.

The last day of negotiations began with reports of threats by North Korea. According to U.S. officials, the North's delegates said the country was prepared to declare itself a nuclear power - and possibly conduct a test - if its demands are not met.

The threat came after all six nations at the talks presented their views. North Korea wants the United States sign a pact of non-aggression. The United States has ruled out the prospect, but offered written assurances that it has no plans to attack the North.

The United States and other nations repeated their calls for the North to dismantle its nuclear program, which Pyongyang has developed in violation of international agreements.

Pyongyang also demanded that Washington grant it diplomatic recognition and that Japan and South Korea guarantee it economic aid.

Official North Korean news media on Friday struck a belligerent note by saying if the United States did not agree to its proposals, Pyongyang would be forced to beef up what the report called its "nuclear deterrent."

In addition to the United States and North Korea, the talks included delegates from China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia.

The delegates did not issue a joint communique at the conclusion of the talks.

Despite the absence of a communique, China's chief delegate at the talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Wang Yi, says all sides reached common ground.

Mr. Wang says the participants agreed that the Korean Peninsula should be nuclear-free, and that North Korea's security concerns should be addressed.

Mr. Wang also says that in the course of the talks, the United States stressed that it has no intention of invading or attacking North Korea, and is not looking for a regime change in Pyongyang.

The Chinese diplomat says the delegates agreed to hold a second round of talks, and they will set the date and place later.

The meeting's outcome, while not a major breakthrough by most accounts, was in line with the expectations of many observers, who had said an agreement to meet again would be a good result.

The talks gave the participating countries a chance to air their positions, setting what analysts say is solid groundwork for further negotiations. Delegates will now return to their countries and decide what step to take next.

The standoff began in October, when the United States said North Korea had a secret nuclear weapons program. Since then, Pyongyang has withdrawn from the global Non-Proliferation Treaty and restarted a nuclear facility that can produce fuel for weapons.