US refused to cease its nuclear umbrella over South Korea

The U.S. rejected North Korea's demand for an end to the nuclear defense of South Korea, according to a senior U.S. official at today's six-nation talks on the North's atomic weapons program.

There is no possibility of negotiation on the North's call for the U.S. to abandon its so-called nuclear umbrella over South Korea, the official, who declined to be further identified, told reporters at a briefing after the second day of talks in Beijing. North Korea made the demand earlier today, South Korea's Yonhap News said, citing Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Kim Kye Gwan.

The U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are trying to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for food and economic aid, and security guarantees. This is the fourth round of such discussions after the previous three, the most recent of which was held 13 months ago, failed to yield an agreement, reports Bloomberg.

According to BBC News, all the six nations involved in the nuclear talks are thought to have presented their basic positions at Wednesday's session. As well as the US and North Korea, delegates from Japan, China, Russia and South Korea were also around the table.

Wu Dawei, China's chief delegate at the talks told Beijing media that the six countries involved should "seize the opportunity to resolve the challenges, and jointly chart a better future for North East Asia".

This fourth round of six-party talks marks the end of a 13-month boycott by North Korea.

The dispute began in October 2002, after North Korea said it had restarted its nuclear program, violating a 1994 agreement with the U.S. Later that year, the U.S. and its allies stopped shipments of fuel oil to the communist nation, and in response North Korea expelled United Nations nuclear inspectors and withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Bloomberg reminds.

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