- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 28, 2004

BEIJING — Six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program ended yesterday without a major breakthrough, but the United States declared them successful, and participants promised to push ahead with diplomatic efforts.

The North denounced the United States, saying Washington was not willing to reach a settlement.

The participants agreed to hold more senior-level talks before July and form a lower-level working group to handle details of solving the 16-month-old dispute, officials announced.

“While key differences remain that will need to be addressed in further rounds of discussions, this round of talks made progress on a regularized process for the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of this issue,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement.

The governments failed to agree on the U.S. demand that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program entirely, said the chief Chinese delegate, Wang Yi, who cited an “extreme lack of trust.”

He quoted the North Koreans as saying that Washington must first give up what Pyongyang calls a “hostile policy” toward the isolated communist regime.

The North’s delegate, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, said he saw no “positive result” from the four-day meeting, the second round of six-nation talks organized by China. A first round in August produced no substantive results.

“The U.S. delegation did not have an attitude to resolve the nuclear issue through peaceful negotiations,” Mr. Kim said at a news conference.

The talks ended on a discordant note when the governments failed to issue a planned joint statement after they could not agree on North Korea’s last-minute request to change its wording. Pyongyang wanted the statement to refer to “differences” among delegates.

Still, a U.S. official said the atmosphere of two one-on-one meetings between the American and North Korean delegations had gone better than he expected, but cautioned that many details remained to be worked out.

The other participants in the talks were South Korea, Japan and Russia. South Korea said it was “satisfied” with the talks. Russia, in a statement from Moscow, said the talks were “useful.”

Washington repeatedly has demanded the comprehensive dismantling of the North’s nuclear program, refusing to grant concessions if Pyongyang freezes the program but does not abolish it. The North says it won’t give up nuclear activities that are not related to weapons.

“The parties did not have consensus on this proposal or the scope of North Korea’s giving up nuclear weapons,” said Mr. Wang, who is also a vice foreign minister.

However, he said, North Korea “made clear its readiness” to relinquish its weapons program “once the United States gives up its so-called ‘hostile policy’ toward North Korea.”

The United States affirmed that it had “no hostile intent” against the North. “It has no intention to invade or attack North Korea,” Mr. Wang said. “It has no intention to seek regime change.”

The governments established what they called a framework to continue diplomatic work. Even before the talks started Wednesday, China warned that the dispute could not be solved in a single round of meetings.

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