Third day of talks: North Korea agrees to compromise

The six-party talks entered a crucial phase Thursday. The question whether NKorea destroys its nuclear weapons remains. Washington and the communist’s state are trying to bridge deep divisions over proposals for disarming.

The U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia are meeting for the third day with North Korea to persuade it to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return for food and economic aid and security guarantees. North Korea said in February it had built nuclear weapons and was exiting the six-party framework. A meeting with the U.S. earlier this month resulted in North Korea agreeing to return to talks, Bloomberg informs.

North Korea is balking at demands it disarm before it receives aid being promised by the U.S. and other nations involved in revived six-nation talks in Beijing. The U.S. side is listening to these concerns, the U.S. official said last night, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.

Pyongyang has insisted on security guarantees and aid pledges before it moves to scrap its weapons programme, and a senior U.S. official told reporters the North Koreans had objected to the proposal that they should move first.

"They were not entirely satisfied by it and had some concerns about the sequencing of obligations," the U.S. official was quoted as saying by Reuters after the second day of talks.

The two sides held a one-on-one meeting again on Thursday, after exchanges on Monday and Tuesday, continuing a pattern of unusually frequent exchanges that has marked a change in the U.S. approach and raised hopes for a positive outcome.

"The outcome of DPRK-U.S. bilateral consultations will influence the upcoming result of this round of six-party talks to a large extent," China's official Xinhua news agency quoted an unnamed analyst as saying.

The meeting lasted about three hours, far longer than either of the previous two, Xinhua said.

"Our approach to these discussions, as is contained in our June 24th, 2004, proposal, is that good-faith actions on the part of North Korea will be met in turn by good-faith actions from the United States and other members of the six-party talks," Sean McCormack, spokesman for U.S. State Department, said in a statement posted on the department's Web site.

"And before North Korea is a fundamental choice. They can have a different, a fundamentally different relationship with the rest of the world and the United States," McCormack said. "But first, they have to make a choice and that choice is to give up their nuclear program." Early this year North Korea announced that it had nuclear weapons. It demanded Washington provide aid, security guarantees and diplomatic recognition in return for scrapping them, a sequence that remains at odds with the U.S. position, Reuters reminds.

North Korea reacted coolly to a U.S. offer first put forward in June 2004 to provide security guarantees and South Korean aid in return for the North agreeing to dismantle - not just freeze - its nuclear programs in a verifiable way.

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