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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK
Korea talks 'resume in September'
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei (L) shakes hands with Kenichiro Sasae, Director General of Foreign Ministry
Mr Wu met Japan's top negotiator, Kenichiro Sasae, on Thursday
The six-nation discussions on North Korea's nuclear programme may resume on 2 September, according to the Chinese envoy and co-ordinator for the talks.

Wu Dawei is reported to have mentioned the date during a meeting with Japanese foreign ministry officials in Tokyo.

The talks reached a deadlock earlier this month, but delegates agreed to reconvene after a short recess in an attempt to find a solution.

The discussions were expected to resume next week, but no date had been set.

Mr Wu made his comments at a meeting in Tokyo with Mizuho Fukushima, the head of Japan's Social Democratic Party.

"Although we are still negotiating, our scheduled date to resume six-way talks is 2 September," Mr Wu was quoted as saying by a spokesman for the party, Tsuyoshi Ito.

Mr Wu later admitted the date was still not confirmed - and there is no indication of whether North Korea or the United States have agreed to that particular starting time.

Breaking the deadlock

The Chinese envoy sounded a note of optimism over the talks, reportedly telling Mizuho Fukushima: "I think there will be more progress than before."

His comments echo those of Christopher Hill, the chief US negotiator at the talks, who told reporters on Wednesday that the current impasse could be broken.

CRISIS TIMELINE
Oct 2002: US says North Korea is enriching uranium in violation of agreements
Dec 2002: North Korea removes UN seals from Yongbyon nuclear reactor, expels inspectors
Feb 2003: IAEA refers North Korea to UN Security Council
Aug 2003: First round of six-nation talks begins in Beijing
Feb 2005: Pyongyang says it has built nuclear weapons for self-defence

"I think we can come up with something," Mr Hill told Reuters news agency.

But correspondents warn it will be an uphill battle, with many issues yet to resolve.

On 7 August, after 13 days of discussions - a far longer period than in the previous three rounds of six-party talks - the delegates at this fourth round apparently reached deadlock and agreed to break for a recess.

Part of the reason for the deadlock was North Korea's insistence on maintaining a civilian nuclear programme.

The US wants all the North's nuclear facilities dismantled - whether for making weapons or producing energy - before any concessions are made, and Christopher Hill has said he is not prepared to compromise on the issue.

The general view of the six-party talks meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. Archive picture
The fourth round of talks have already gone on for 13 days

Washington fears Pyongyang could change from generating power to making weapons, as the isolated communist nation claims to have done in the past.

But North Korea's desire for peaceful nuclear energy is just one of the sticking points.

The timing of North Korea's proposed disarmament - and whether it receives any aid before the process is completed - is another major hurdle which delegates need to resolve.

The nuclear crisis first erupted in 2002, when the US accused North Korea of pursuing an uranium enrichment project to make nuclear weapons - an accusation Pyongyang still denies.

The stand-off deepened when the North withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty shortly afterwards.

Tensions were raised further earlier this year when Pyongyang announced it had plutonium-based nuclear weapons.




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