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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
N Korea talks fail to ease tension
North Korean chief delegate Pak Chang Ryon (left) with his South Korean counterpart Kim Gwang-lim
US officials say the North is deliberately blowing hot and cold
The diplomatic gulf separating North Korea and the United States appears as wide as ever after six-nation talks on the North's nuclear programme.

The three-day talks in Beijing ended on Friday with North Korea charging that the US was undermining dialogue and holding on to its "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang.

As tensions undermined the fairly civil atmosphere in which the talks started, North Korea threatened on Thursday to test a nuclear weapon, according to a US official in Washington.

We can dismantle our nuclear programme if the US makes a switchover in its hostile policy towards us
North Korea

But there was some progress, in the announcement by the South Korean chief delegate that all parties agreed to meet again, although not yet to a time or place.

There was no joint statement, but all sides agreed that the Korean peninsula should be nuclear free, and reached a consensus not to escalate the situation while a solution is being negotiated.

The BBC's correspondent at the talks, Charles Scanlon, says an agreement to meet again had been seen as the best that could be achieved from the Beijing talks.

The White House described the unprecedented six-nation meeting as "positive". Its strategy has been to increase regional pressure on North Korea.

North Korean offer

A report by North Korea's official news agency KCNA said: "As the United States refused to express its willingness to shift away from its hostile policy towards us, the prospect of continuing the talks is in danger."

The agency said Pyongyang had put forward a "package of solutions" during the talks.

This reportedly included:

  • A US-North Korean non-aggression treaty
  • Diplomatic relations
  • Inter-regional economic co-operation

In return for:

  • Not making nuclear weapons and allowing inspections
  • The dismantling of nuclear facilities
  • An end to testing and exporting missiles

But, according to our correspondent, diplomats said the US had ruled out a non-aggression treaty.

Washington appears to have stood by its demand that the North make the first move.

In a BBC interview, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, said North Korea had been guilty of nuclear "blackmail".

"I don't think they can be trusted," said the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). "However, we would like to work with them and bring them back to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."

According to US officials, North Korea confirmed privately to them in April that Pyongyang possessed nuclear weapons.

North Korea subsequently expelled UN weapons inspectors and pulled out of the NPT.

The three days of talks this week were the first formal discussions on the crisis since April, and the first to include South Korea, Japan, and Russia.

Japan is not only worried about the nuclear threat, but about North Korea's admission last year that it kidnapped Japanese citizens to help spies in the 1970s and 80s.

North Korea's delegate promised to resolve the issue, Japan's envoy said.

"We believe there's been excellent co-operation... between the United States and China, Japan, South Korea and Russia," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan.

However, she refused to be drawn on North Korea's reported threat to declare itself a nuclear power and carry out tests.

"North Korea has a long history of making inflammatory statements that serve to isolate it from the rest of the world," she said.

An unnamed US official told Reuters news agency that North Korea was playing "a calculated game of confusing the adversary" with both belligerent and conciliatory statements.

"We heard both things," he said. "This is characteristic of the North Koreans. They are all over the place."

The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"North Korea had threatened to test a nuclear bomb"


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