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Marathon North Korean Nuclear Talks Struggle Through Seventh Day

On hands on deck

Beijing, China (AFP) Aug 02, 2005
Six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons drive struggled through a seventh day with limited progress Monday as differences persisted on key disarmament issues.

"It's been a long day without a lot of progress to report," chief US delegate Christopher Hill told reporters at his hotel late Monday.

"I don't see any breakthroughs on the immediate horizon," he added.

The United States and North Korea held two more one-on-one meetings and all sides spent three-and-a-half hours studying a revised document submitted by China aimed at establishing a framework on ridding the Korean pensinsula of nuclear weapons.

The United States and North Korea, still observing a truce after the Korean war in the early 1950s, have met eight times on the sidelines of the talks in the past week.

"We continue to have rather major differences between North Korea on one hand and the other five parties on the other," Hill said without going into specifics.

He said the issue of energy aid to a nuclear arms-free North Korea is "one of the several principles" to be included in the document.

The first draft sparked fiery exchanges Sunday between the sides, who are looking to find a solution to the standoff that began when the United States accused North Korea of running a secret uranium enrichment program in 2002.

Officials say the arguments boil down to whether North Korea should dismantle its weapons before it gets aid and security guarantees, as the US demands, or whether it gets the incentives first, as North Korea wants.

"I am sure there are a lot of elements in the second draft as well as in the first draft that they were not entirely happy with," Hill said.

The fourth round of talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States are the longest since the process was initiated in 2003 and have been characterised by softer rhetoric from all sides.

But the going has still been tough.

"Although we worked very actively we can hardly say there was big progress as major areas of contention still remain," top Japanese envoy Kenichiro Sasae told reporters at the end of the day.

"We will again take on drafting work tomorrow, mostly at the level of deputy chiefs but delegation chiefs may be involved in some cases."

The fact the talks have continued for seven days is seen by some analysts as a sign of progress.

"We'll stay here as long as we feel we'll make progress," said Hill, the assistant US secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. "And if we are not making progress we are not going to stay here."

China, North Korea's closest ally, has been driving the negotiations, engaging in its most significant diplomatic offensive in years as it seeks a peaceful end to a crisis that could have serious implications for Beijing.

After disagreements emerged Sunday on the contents of the draft document, China reworked it and submitted the text again Monday.

Jiji Press, citing a Japanese delegation source, said Japan could not accept the first draft because it did not refer to the Cold War kidnapping of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

Another Japanese media report quoted sources as saying that although the draft called for the abandonment of Pyongyang's nuclear program, it did not include the word nuclear "dismantlement" as sought by the United States and Japan.

The draft did however reflect a key concern of the North, that it be given security guarantees in exchange for ending its nuclear weapons programs, Kyodo news agency said.

With the talks stretching to an unprecedented seventh day, and defined by the direct contacts between North Korea and the United States, hopes have been raised that a way forward can eventually be found.

South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon, his country's chief delegate, said it was still too early to say when the joint statement would be ready.

North Korea declared on February 10 that it possessed nuclear weapons and said it needed them as a deterrent to what it said were US plans to launch a nuclear attack.

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One Killed, One Hurt In Fire On Scrapped Russian Nuclear Submarine
Moscow, Russia (AFP) Aug 02, 2005
One person was killed and another hurt in a fire Monday on a decommissioned nuclear submarine that was being scrapped in northern Russia, but the vessel's reactor had already been removed and radiation levels were normal in the port, officials said.







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