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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
China seeks to save N Korea talks
US negotiator Christopher Hill 16/9/05
The US says North Korea's latest request is a big problem
China has put forward a new draft document it hopes will get agreement at talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the Xinhua news agency said.

The Chinese move came amid signs the US and North Korea had reached an impasse over Pyongyang's new demand it be given a light water nuclear reactor.

Earlier draft deals offered North Korea security guarantees, aid and free power if it ended its nuclear programme.

The six-nation discussions reconvened on Tuesday after a five-week recess.

Xinhua gave no details about what was in the new draft, but China has reportedly given negotiators until Saturday to prepare their replies.

Russia's envoy to the talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev, told reporters that the new draft stipulated that North Korea has a right to nuclear energy technology.

N Korea is being pressed to give up nuclear weapons and close Yongbyon reactor
In return it will receive security guarantees, economic aid and free electricity
N Korea first said it wanted right to maintain civilian nuclear programme
Now says it wants to be given a light water reactor
N Korea was promised two reactors under 1994 deal, but deal broke down in 2002

The US initially ruled out such a concession, saying North Korea could not be trusted. But its chief negotiator, Christopher Hill, has recently suggested the US position could be more flexible.

The Chinese move followed a statement on Thursday by a North Korean spokesman, Hyun Hak-bon, who said that Pyongyang wanted to be given a light water reactor to make up for the graphite moderated reactors it was being pressed to give up under the proposed deal.

Light water reactors are much more difficult to use as a source of plutonium with which to build nuclear weapons. North Korea claims to be using one of its existing graphite reactors to this end.

'Major problem'

North Korea's statement appeared to open up a fresh divide between Pyongyang and Washington.

Christopher Hill, the US chief negotiator, has called the North Korean request a "major problem" for the talks.

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

Mr Hill said that building a light water reactor would cost $2-3bn (1.1-1.6bn) and would take about 10 years. He insisted the North accept a South Korean offer to use its electricity through power cables across the border.

Mr Hill also said agreement needed to be reached on the removal of North Korea's "terrible weapons" before other demands could be looked at.

Pyongyang, for its part, wants aid and diplomatic incentives and be granted the right to keep a civilian nuclear programme first.

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