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Preliminary North-U.S. Talks Stalled

Posted November. 30, 2006 06:49,   


On November 29, the chief envoys of North Korea and the U.S. had their second day of preparatory negotiations to resume the six-party talks, but failed to reach an agreement.

Since nine in the morning at the Diaoyutai State Guest House, North Korea’s chief representative Kim Gye Gwan (Vice Foreign Minister) and America’s chief representative Christopher Hill (Assistant State Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs) entered a second round of marathon negotiations. Although they went on as long six hours until 3:40 p.m., the parties were unable to narrow the gap between their different views.

After the session was closed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that, “Top negotiators of China, the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States agreed to make joint efforts to resume the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue as soon as possible.”

It has been reported that envoys of both North Korea and the U.S. will have a third round of talks in the morning of November 30 for further negotiations. According to other reports, both parties had an intense tug-of-war dealing with issues such as re-opening Pyongyang’s frozen accounts at Banco Delta Asia (BDA) and rolling back nuclear programs first.

North Korea demanded the U.S. to “promise to take care of the BDA problem once the six-party talks resumes.” But the U.S. didn’t move a single step from its initial stance, saying that, “We will discuss it in a working group that will be established as soon as the talks restart.”

In addition, the U.S. demanded that Pyongyang should first promise to take denuclearization measures such as stopping operation of its nuclear facilities and receiving IAEA inspectors again. According to a number of foreign affairs officials of Washington and Beijing, however, the U.S. negotiators were reluctant to accept the North Koreans’ precondition, which insisted on unfreezing its BDA accounts first.

Moreover, it has been reported that North Korea demanded a formal recognition of their status as a nuclear state and the lifting of sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council as conditions to be fulfilled in the early phase of the resumed six-party talks. The U.S. denied these demands.

As the negotiations headed toward a stalemate, the U.S. tried to persuade North Korea by suggesting, “As soon as the six-party talks reopen, we will organize a working group for denuclearization and another for normalizing North Korea-U.S. relations and start discussions of both matters simultaneously.” Nevertheless, this was again denied by Pyongyang, which insisted on the BDA precondition.

As a measure to normalize North Korea-U.S. relationship, Washington is reviewing options such as removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of international terrorism, opening liaison offices in both countries, and initiating talks to normalize North Korea-U.S. relations.

As the second round of the negotiation ended up with no agreed point, Hill’s plan to visit Seoul in the afternoon of November 29 was cancelled.

On the same day, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a regular briefing, “There is a convergence on the ideas of what would constitute tangible and concrete progress in this next round of six-party talks.” In a similar sense, he commented, “The whole idea behind these preparatory discussions is to lay the groundwork for a good, solid six-party round that actually produces results.”