- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

BEIJING — The United States and North Korea urged each other yesterday to make concessions as envoys to disarmament talks called a three-week recess, deadlocked over what the American envoy said was the North’s demand for a nuclear power plant.

The adjournment came after 13 days of talks failed to produce a statement of principles to guide renewed negotiations aimed at persuading North Korea to renounce nuclear weapons. The delegations said the six-nation talks would resume the week of Aug. 29.

The U.S. envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said talks stalled over Pyongyang’s demand for the statement to include a promise that it be given a nuclear reactor. He said all the five other delegations rejected that.

“We decided it was time to end it and go to recess, with the idea that they can go back and think about what they’ve been told, which is, they’re not going to get a light-water reactor,” Mr. Hill told reporters.

He expressed hope that North Korea’s communist regime would drop the demand once its envoys explained the rejection, saying: “Perhaps people back in Pyongyang need to hear it directly.”

But the North’s chief envoy, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, said that during the recess Washington should “change its policy on not letting us have any kind of nuclear activities.”

The dispute is “one of the very important elements that led us to fail to come up with an agreement,” Mr. Kim said at a press conference at the North Korean Embassy. He did not mention the reactor cited by Mr. Hill.

North Korea has been under international pressure since late 2002, when Washington said the North admitted running a clandestine program that violated a 1994 agreement to give up development of atomic weapons.

The North later withdrew from the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which barred the country from obtaining nuclear arms, and said in February that it possesses atomic warheads. That assertion has not been verified, but U.S. intelligence and other estimates say the North has as many as six atomic bombs.

The latest round of talks is the fourth in a series arranged by China, which diplomats say lobbied North Korea aggressively to make a deal. The talks also involve South Korea, Japan and Russia.

China is North Korea’s most important ally and aid donor. But, analysts say, Chinese leaders worry that letting the North acquire nuclear weapons could destabilize the region by encouraging South Korea and Japan to do the same.

During the recess, the six governments “are supposed to maintain contact and consultations,” said China’s chief delegate, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei. But he warned that even after they return from the recess, “I can’t say for sure that we will reach agreement.”

North Korea says that in exchange for renouncing nuclear weapons, it wants economic and energy aid, a peace treaty and normalized relations with Washington.

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