Envoys from five countries seeking to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons began discussing how to implement a disarmament pledge by the communist nation as the negotiations entered a second day on Tuesday, but without reaching an agreement.
Separate talks between Washington and Pyongyang on a key sticking point — US financial restrictions against the reclusive regime — were also expected later Tuesday.
All chief nuclear envoys met in a closed session at a Chinese state guesthouse for less than two hours on Tuesday morning, and one-on-one meetings were expected later.
"The first step for us is to map out the measures that help realise the joint statement and to decide what moves we will take," said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, according to the Chinese press center at the talks.
The "joint statement" refers to a September 2005 agreement from the talks — the only ever reached — where the North said it would abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
The meetings "were held in a much more serious atmosphere," a South Korean official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the ongoing diplomacy.
Some countries have proposed forming working-level groups to implement the 2005 agreement and "there have been many opinions on the issue," the official said.
"But no consensus has been reached and the issue is still in discussion."
The North staked out a tough position as the talks opened Monday, demanding a long list of previously stated preconditions for its disarmament such as the lifting of all UN sanctions and US financial restrictions.
Meanwhile, a North Korean delegation led by O Kwang Chol, president of the North's Foreign Trade Bank of Korea, arrived on Tuesday in Beijing for separate talks on the financial issue.
Those US-North Korean meetings were to start Tuesday afternoon, the US Embassy said.
North Korea had refused to return to the multinational talks for 13 months in anger over the US blacklisting of a Macau bank where Pyongyang deposited some US$24 million, alleging the bank was complicit in the North's counterfeiting of US$100 bills and money laundering to sell weapons of mass destruction.
Daniel Glaser, the US Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, was in Beijing for talks on the financial issue with the North Koreans.
During the opening talks Monday, North Korea also insisted it be treated as a full-fledged nuclear power.
But the United States has said time was running out for Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear arsenal and threatened more sanctions.
US envoy Christopher Hill told reporters on Tuesday morning that so far "not too much progress" had been made toward implementing an agreement reached last year.
The resumption of the talks — consisting of China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas — came after the North test-fired a new long-range missile in July and set off an underground atomic blast on October 9.
The North also renewed its demand Monday that it be given a nuclear reactor for electricity generation and also that its struggling economy get other help in meeting its energy needs until the reactor is built.