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Six-Party Talks Unlikely To Break US-NKorea Deadlock In Near Future

Plenty of handshakes just no agreement

Beijing (AFP) Aug 07, 2005
The United States and North Korea must make major U-turns to narrow the big gaps still separating them after 13 gruelling days of nuclear disarmament talks, analysts say.

Otherwise the fourth round of the six-party talks, which resumes on August 29, risks ending up the same way as the three previous ones -- back at square one.

The discussions on dissuading the Stalinist state from building a nuclear arsenal, in return for diplomatic and economic concessions, have fallen short of even producing a document that would map out a road towards disarmament.

Shi Yinhong, a regional analyst at Beijing's People's University, said the talks had not been a failure but acknowleged progress was painfully slow.

"There was success, but very limited success, in a process that is very hard," he said.

Another analyst agreed.

"It's not much but then it's not an area where we would expect much," Paul French, author of "North Korea: the Paranoid Peninsula", said of progress in the talks that adjourned Sunday.

One major obstacle is the North's insistence that it retain the right to peaceful nuclear power to generate electricity, while the United States continues to demand that it abort all atomic programs and not just its weapons capability.

Host China said the six countries involved -- the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, the United States and China -- had agreed to a three-week recess, adding that although progress had been made divisions were deep.

"There is no doubt there are still major differences among parties in some issues," Chinese vice foreign minister Wu Dawei said in closing remarks.

"But the agreement reached to resume the talks shows we do not fear these differences. We believe we are capable of overcoming these differences."

However the marathon talks saw the unveiling only of a one-page statement reiterating the common goal -- denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Emphasising the differences, chief US envoy Christopher Hill reiterated Sunday that the US would never accept North Korea using light water nuclear reactors in its pursuit of energy.

This was the reason the six-party talks had failed to reach agreement, he said.

Pyongyang responded in kind. Its chief delegate Kim Kye-gwan said the North would continue to build nuclear weapons and the US must change its policies to break the deadlock.

Analysts said the main protagonists the US and North Korea must make some fundamental concessions when the current round resumes if it is to succeed. But they also said each side's basic tenets are unlikely to alter in the near term.

"I doubt whether Washington and Pyongyang will be willing to change their fundamental positions," said People's University Shi.

Paul Harris, an analyst at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, agreed.

"North Korea is not going to give up its nuclear weapons, barring a sea change or major paradigmn shift," said Harris, adding that time was on its side.

French said that so far "the Americans have not offered anything," adding that the US could lift its opposition to the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund helping North Korea.

The talks are also struggling to overcome another hurdle. In exchange for dismantling its nuclear arsenal the North has demanded normalization of ties with the United States as well as economic assistance and security guarantees.

The North wants concessions to be delivered simultaneously with the dismantling of its atomic weapons program. The United States has persistently demanded that the North must dump its weapons programs before it gets aid and energy.

"The disagreement that was most prominent was North Korean use of peaceful nucelear power," said Shi. "But this is not the only decisive disagreement...that there is agreement on every other issue is just not true."

To break the deadlock some analysts said Washington should seriously consider providing security guarantees and even change tack and allow a civilian nuclear programme.

"Sovereignty is a real issue for North Korea ... it wants a pact, one that is legally binding and it would go a long way if the US was to agree to file something..." said Harris.

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Iran Vows No Way Back From Nuclear Move
Tehran (AFP) Aug 07, 2005
Iran on Sunday insisted there was no going back from its decision to resume uranium conversion in defiance of the European Union, despite an upcoming meeting of the UN nuclear watchdog and warnings of an international crisis.

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