China has proposed a new draft of a statement by negotiators at talks on North Korea's nuclear program, after weekend discussions were snarled by the North's demands for what it should receive in exchange for disarming.
The six-party talks have been marked by unusually frequent contact between Washington and Pyongyang, the main protagonists in a crisis now nearly three years old, creating a more positive atmosphere than at three previous inconclusive rounds, according to Reuters.
But as the open-ended talks stretched into a seventh day, envoys from the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China were still struggling to hammer out a statement of basic principles.
The statement was not expected to address the crucial issue of whether North Korea should dismantle its nuclear facilities as a precondition to aid and security guarantees, as the United States wants, or whether the assurances should come first -- the heart of the disagreement between Washington and Pyongyang.
"Overnight, there has been a second draft produced .... The drafting committee will again look at this draft," U.S. chief negotiator Christopher Hill told was quoted as saying by Reuters.
"There is still a lot of language in the draft in which the various delegations have some differences," he said, adding it was a "tough process" that would likely go beyond Monday.
Hill said the new draft included mention of South Korea's offer to supply the North with 2,000 megawatts of electricity if it dismantled its weapons programs. That is roughly equivalent to the power-strapped state's total output.
But Pyongyang voiced concern over the proposal.
"North Korea is worried that the deal could pose a security threat to the North," a diplomatic source close to the talks told Reuters. "North Korea's worries are centered on what if South Korea cut off supplies for any reasons," he said.
South Korean envoy Song Min-soon said the six parties had so far agreed only to set up a framework for eventual denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula after weekend talks that a Japanese delegate said were marked by "fierce exchanges."
North Korea's foreign minister has repeated that the communist nation could rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and admit international inspectors if the talks are successful, AP reports. The statement Friday by the foreign minister while in Laos was reported Sunday by the North's official news agency, echoing remarks in June by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
In February, the North claimed it had nuclear weapons and has since taken steps that would allow it to harvest more plutonium for possible use in bombs.