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North Korea Nuclear Talks Stalemate; New Proposal Considered


With multi-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs at a stalemate, host China has asked negotiators to look at a new proposal for a joint statement of principles. The aim of this fourth round of negotiations.

Talks appeared to unravel Friday, as North Korea pressed its demands for a nuclear energy reactor, and the United States remained firmly opposed.

China stepped in to try to salvage negotiations by issuing a new draft proposal, and calling on delegates to respond to it on Saturday. Russian delegate Alexander Alexeyev says the measure contains compromise wording.

"It is not new," said Alexander Alexeyev. "It is an old draft with a number of principal corrections and a number of principal new wording, mainly regarding the right of the DPRK to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes."

The United States opposes giving North Korea, or the DPRK, nuclear technology in exchange for a promise to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs, given the country's record of breaking international commitments not to build nuclear weapons.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials on the Chinese proposal.

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill met briefly with his North Korean counterpart Friday. Trying to keep a positive outlook, he described the discussions as good.

"There are some real, very difficult, problems among the parties, and we have to see by the end of the day where we are," said Christopher Hill. "But I would say we're still in business here."

Talks resumed on Tuesday after a 37-day recess, during which North Korea was to have examined an earlier Chinese proposal. That included an offer by South Korea to provide massive amounts of non-nuclear energy to the impoverished North, along with economic aid and security guarantees.

This is the fourth round of negotiations since 2003 in the attempt to resolve a crisis that has been festering since 2002. That is when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted to restarting a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 agreement to abandon the effort.

In a sign that patience is growing thin, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the New York Post newspaper the United States is working on nonproliferation measures that could include the freezing of North Korean assets.

Friday's agenda included a trilateral meeting among the United States, South Korea, and Japan, to discuss how to move forward. The Russian envoy said participants would decide Saturday either to reach an agreement or recess.