Representatives from six countries are meeting in Beijing for talks aimed at breaking the impasse over North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes.
Click on the map below to find out what each nation hopes to get from the talks
Washington wants North Korea to agree to end its nuclear programmes, and rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
In return, the US is understood to be willing to grant Pyongyang a guarantee of non-aggression, but it is unlikely that this would be the formal treaty that North Korea ideally wants.
It is also likely to promise the impoverished North Korea more aid, including food and fuel, as part of any deal.
Washington wants to ensure that, this time, any settlement cannot be broken.
The US says Pyongyang violated a 1994 pact to halt its nuclear ambitions, and the Bush administration is anxious that this does not happen again.
The US is likely to want North Korea to destroy, not just close down, its nuclear reactors. It also wants a reliable system of verifying that North Korea is keeping to its agreements.
United Nations inspectors, who were expelled by Pyongyang in 2002, failed to spot an enriched uranium programme which the US says North Korea admitted to have been developing.
In the long term, the US says diplomatic ties with North Korea are not possible until Pyongyang agrees to observe international human rights conventions, adopt a less aggressive outlook and stop selling its missile technology to other rogue states.
North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons and to be working on building up its arsenal.
The problem for the US, and the rest of the world, is that it is very difficult to verify these claims.
North Korea says US hostility against it has forced it to seek a nuclear deterrent - and it appears worried that, like Iraq, it could be the victim of a pre-emptive US attack.
Pyongyang says it would be willing to give up its nuclear programme, provided the US sign a security guarantee which is more substantial than a general statement.
The beleaguered regime also wants an easing of economic sanctions, and additional aid to support its creaking economy, especially its energy needs.
It also became clear as the talks continued that North Korea wants the right to have and develop a civilian nuclear programme. During the talks, it also tabled a demand that the other countries build it a light water nuclear reactor, to make up for the graphite moderated reactors it was being pressed to give up under the proposed deal.
China is likely to seek a middle-ground policy of containment during the six-nation talks.
Even though Pyongyang is one of its closest allies, Beijing does not want to see a nuclear North Korea on its border.
But nor does it want Kim Jong-il's regime to come under more pressure, economically or militarily.
If North Korea collapsed, China's border would be flooded with hundreds of thousands of hungry North Koreans - a problem it is already experiencing, albeit at a much lower level.
As North Korea's largest source of humanitarian support and energy supplies, China is in a strong bargaining position.
It has already used its influence to bring several rounds of six-party talks to fruition.
Beijing's increasingly proactive role marks a significant departure in Chinese foreign policy regarding Pyongyang, which used to be confined to behind-the-scenes negotiations.
But the extent of China's leverage over North Korea remains in doubt. And Beijing's principal concern is its relationship with the US.
South Korea has always vehemently opposed its neighbour's nuclear ambitions.
But it has often taken a less confrontational stance than the US, concerned that threats to apply economic or even military pressure would only provoke North Korea further.
South Korea has good reason to be anxious about the continuing crisis.
Thousands of North Korean weapons are already poised on the border, well within range of Seoul.
Japan, like the US, wants to maintain a tough line against North Korea.
Tokyo feels threatened by nearby Pyongyang's weapons programme, especially since the communist state test-fired a suspected Taepodong-1 missile over Japan's main island of Honshu in 1998.
Japan also says the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North Koreans decades ago should be raised at the Beijing
In the past, Tokyo has made clear that this issue is just as important to Japan as the nuclear stand-off.
Russia is opposed to the idea of a nuclear North Korea, but it also has ties with Pyongyang which it would be loath to jeopardise.
Like China, Russia provides much-needed aid to North Korea, and also has business interests in the country.
Moscow has retained links with its communist neighbour ever since the Soviet Union helped set up the country in the aftermath of World War II.
But correspondents say that Moscow's influence may be limited, primarily because Russia cannot commit a large financial outlay to help North Korea economically.