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. Six Party Talks Poised For Breakdown

Getting Korea back to the negotiating table will be much more difficult than restarting the nuclear vats.

Washington (UPI) Aug 29, 2005
Resumption of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program the week of Aug. 29 looks unlikely as a Chinese envoy in Pyongyang Monday failed to announce a date when talks would restart.

"The date of resuming the talks is not important, the important thing is all the parties agreed to resume the talks and we all have kept contact and negotiation in the framework of the six-party talks," Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, who had been in Pyongyang since Saturday trying to nail down a date for the talks, told the official Xinhua news agency.

In Pyongyang, the Chinese envoy met with Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun and Deputy Foreign Ministers Kim Gye-gwan and Kim Yong-il.

Kim Gye-gwan leads the North Korean delegation at the six-party talks that bring together China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States.

North Korea, meanwhile, proposed that the talks resume in September at the end of joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington. the two-week annual joint exercise ends. North Korea calls the war games saber-rattling to force the communist state to give up its nuclear weapons development.

"We suggest reopening the talks in the week that starts with Sept. 12 when the dusts of a war exercise will go down somewhat," the North's Foreign Ministry said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. "This is the utmost leniency that we can show in this situation."

South Korean officials conceded the talks were unlikely to begin in August as had been scheduled.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said the talks could resume as early as mid-September.

"It is difficult for us to resume the talks in early September because most Chinese Foreign Ministry officials will also visit Washington at that time," Ban told journalists.

An official from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing told United Press International: "We do not have a confirmed date for when the six party talks will begin. We expect China to make an announcement shortly regarding the fourth round of talks. We have every reason to believe they will resume in the near future, but it is not likely to be this week."

The six-party talks began in August 2003 and are dedicated to finding a diplomatic solution of "denuclearizing the Korean peninsula."

The fourth round of talks ended earlier this month for a three-week "recess" following 13 days of intense discussions that failed to produce a consensus on a joint statement on principles and agenda items for settling the issue in subsequent rounds of negotiations.

The crux of the negotiations is to curtail North Korea's civilian and weapons nuclear ambitions, according to the American position. Discussions have stalled because north Korea is looking to keep its civilian power program.

Washington says North Korea broke deals made with South Korea in 1992 and the United States in 1994. The country has also pulled out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty as well as its membership in the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The notion of a denuclearized Korean peninsula is one of the face-saving formulas diplomats have come up with in the thus far futile attempt to persuade North Korea to give up its desire to be a nuclear weapons power. South Korea, a major user of nuclear energy including participation in the multinational ITER fusion project, is not being asked to give up the technology. South Korea does not have nuclear weapons.

UPI learned of another formula being floated from a U.S. Congressional source on a fact-finding mission in Beijing in mid-August. The source said in his meetings with Chinese officials, they mentioned efforts to promote a nuanced position where the United States acknowledged North Korea's "right" to peaceful use of nuclear technology, while the DPRK "voluntarily" did not exercise that right in exchange for compensation, meaning more outside economic, food and energy assistance.

There are signs the talks, which were suspended for 13 months between the third and fourth rounds, may be unraveling again.

North Korea also warned it would be forced to consider a "different approach" to the talks unless the United States abolishes a newly established post of special envoy on North Korean human rights. The North called the appointment "an act of throwing a hurdle in the way of the six-party talks" and a premeditated move to stifle and topple its communist regime.

"If the United States continues to act this way and cast chills on our generosity and flexibility, we cannot help but think otherwise," the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said. "The United States will find out what this means for itself and give itself deep thoughts."

The denunciation came 10 days after the White House named Jay Lefkowitz as new State Department envoy charged with improving human rights in North Korea. South Korean analysts said the criticism may be rhetoric to stall the nuclear talks.

"North Korea seems to stall the six-nation talks because it has found few signs that the United States concedes its right to have civilian nuclear power," a government official said, calling it an "internal reason" behind the North's delaying the talks.

The human right issue is another major stumbling block in the way of resumption of talks. North Korea, which has benefited from South Korea's economic aid, has cooled inter-Korean ties whenever the South raises the issue.

(Lanfranco reported from Beijing, Lee from Seoul, South Korea)

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