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No breakthrough in North Korea nuclear talks

The talks came to a close with politicians and diplomats trading accusations over who was to blame for the failure.

india Updated: Dec 22, 2006 16:15 IST

Six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program closed on Friday in deadlock, with politicians and diplomats trading accusations over who was to blame for the failure.

Host China announced the latest round of the talks had wrapped up on Friday afternoon after nearly five days of meetings with no progress made and no date set for another round.

In his chairman's statement, Chinese envoy Wu Dawei said only that the six nations -- the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia -- had recommitted to previous broadbrush goals of a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

"The parties... reaffirmed their common goal and will to achieve the peaceful goal of denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula through dialogue," he said.

But the publicly stated goals of the United States before the talks -- of securing concrete commitments from North Korea into giving up its nuclear arms -- did not even come close to happening.

Officials and delegates involved in the talks said the forum had broken down over North Korea's insistence that US financial sanctions against it be lifted before substantive discussions began on Pyongyang giving up its nuclear arms.

Following its first-ever atomic test on October 9, an emboldened North Korea unveiled a long list of other demands on Monday at the opening of the talks, after boycotting the negotiations for the previous 13 months.

But the United States refused to buckle, maintaining the sanctions, which were imposed for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting, were a law enforcement issue and not related to North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The chief US envoy to the talks, Christopher Hill, blamed North Korea for the imbroglio after the United States put forward its undisclosed proposals to end the crisis earlier in the week.

"I think what they need to do is get serious about the issues that have made them such problems," Hill told reporters on Friday morning.

When asked about the difficulty of dealing with the North Korean delegation this week, the normally ultra-polished diplomat expressed frustration.

"When the DPRK (North Korea) raises problems, one day it's financial issue, another day it's something they want that they know they cannot have, and another day it's something that is said about them that hurts their feelings," he said.

"It's one thing after the other."

Japan also said bluntly that North Korea was to blame for this week's diplomatic collapse.

"It is regrettable that we have not seen any obvious progress, even though all the parties but North Korea are seeking a concrete step forward," Chief Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki told reporters in Tokyo.

In Beijing, chief Japanese envoy Kenichiro Sasae warned North Korea of serious consequences.

"If North Korea maintains its stance, the situation will become only more serious. I want North Korea to recognise that this is an important opportunity," Sasae said.

"If they miss out on this opportunity, they will face very severe situations."

However in remarks released on Friday, South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun accused the United States of being partly to blame for the standoff.

Roh said the United States wrecked a six-party deal struck in September last year in which the North agreed to give up its nuclear program in return for security guarantees and aid.

Roh said the United States condemned the deal to failure by imposing just a few days earlier the financial sanctions that so angered the North, and he suggested the timing may not have been a coincidence.

"With a conspiracy view, you may say (the two US departments) were playing games," he said, in reference to the State Department that was involved in the six-party deal and Treasury which imposed the sanctions.

Aside from the US financial sanctions issue, North Korea this week demanded the lifting of separate United Nations sanctions imposed on it after its atomic test.

North Korea also insisted on aid to build a nuclear reactor for power and that the United States drop its "hostile" policy against it.

First Published: Dec 22, 2006 16:15 IST