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North Korea Nuclear Talks End in Beijing - 2004-02-28

A second round of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program has ended in Beijing, with China citing differences between the parties and a U.S. official declaring the meeting a success.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing closed the four-day negotiating session, Saturday. He says all sides agreed to set up a working group and to hold another round of talks in Beijing before the end of June.

Speaking at a closing ceremony, Mr. Li said "serious differences" exist between the parties, but he did not specify what they were.

A senior U.S. official, who asked not to be identified, called the Beijing talks "very successful," and said all participants except North Korea agreed on the need for a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of the North's nuclear programs.

However, the North's chief delegate, Kim Kye Gwan, told reporters the outcome of the meetings was neither substantial nor positive. Mr. Kim said the future prospects of the talks depend entirely on the attitude of the United States.

Saturday's final meetings were extended by more than three hours when the North Korean delegation sought last-minute changes in a proposed joint statement. In the end, no joint statement was agreed, but the participants: North and South Korea, China, the United States, Russia and Japan - agreed that China could summarize the talks.

The Chinese statement says, in part, that all parties agreed a nuclear-free Korean peninsula will be the basis for future multination talks.

The same six nations met in Beijing last year for the first round of multilateral talks about North Korea's nuclear program. Since then, Pyongyang has offered to freeze its nuclear programs in exchange for economic compensation and security guarantees. The United States insists the North Korea must dismantle its nuclear program in accordance with international agreements it has signed.