BEIJING – Talks aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program were set to wrap up today, with U.S. officials citing “no breakthroughs” and bracing for a long road ahead.
“Looking at the last two days, I’d say there’s some good, some bad, some a little ugly,” a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity.
U.S. negotiators balked at capping the meeting with a joint statement, the official said, because they didn’t feel there was enough progress to merit a statement.
Published reports that the North Korean delegation had threatened to test its nuclear weapons systems if its proposals were not accepted were incorrect, the official said. In fact, he said, chief North Korean negotiator Kim Gye Gwan said in a bilateral meeting that unidentified officials in his country wanted to test weapons.
“It was not phrased as a threat,” the U.S. official said. “It may be more rhetorical than real.”
The slow-burn crisis was sparked 20 months ago by North Korea’s disclosure that it had a nuclear weapons program. Members of the six-party talks are North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
The U.S. delegation opened the round of negotiations Wednesday with a proposal calling on Pyongyang to fully disclose all its nuclear weapons systems, agree to international monitoring and begin demobilizing its most dangerous weapons within an initial three-month period. In return, Pyongyang would receive immediate shipments of heavy fuel oil from Japan, South Korea and other nations and an interim U.S. pledge not to attack the isolated and impoverished Stalinist state.
Later on, North Korea would be required to fully dismantle its entire nuclear weapons program and fully comply with international monitoring regimens in return for aid, diplomatic recognition and a more permanent security agreement.