North Korea talks end with no resolution

Six-party talks to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear programme ended with no resolution, with the top US delegate to the negotiations saying Pyongyang’s effort to process nuclear material must be stopped before any detailed discussion of economic aid.

Christopher Hill, the US negotiator to the talks, said North Korea had continued to process plutonium at its Yongbyon reactor and was even moving ahead with plans to build a far larger, more advanced nuclear facility. “There is more plutonium today than on September 19 [when an agreement to dismantle its nuclear programme was reached],” said Mr Hill at the conclusion of the first session of the fifth round of negotiations.

The talks, which involved China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, ended on Friday after three days but could resume by year’s end. The session ended with a statement but no breakthrough on implementing the September 19 agreement.

Mr Hill said the next session would focus on the declaration and verifiable dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear programmes, matters that would require more technical meetings. “We realised how much work we have ahead of us,” he said.

North Korea’s intention to push full-steam ahead with its nuclear programme, despite a multi-lateral agreement in September to curtail such development, indicates it is seeking to extract upfront economic and energy aid before halting programmes.

However, Washington has demanded that North Korea halt current nuclear activity, allow international inspectors back in the country and rejoin the Non-Proliferation Treaty before they discuss the provision of aid.Mr Hill expressed concerns over a new nuclear facility North Korea is building, a huge 50MW complex, which would “obviously be capable of producing even more plutonium” than the 5MW Yongbyon plant.

That complex could be completed as soon as two years from now, according to the report of an unofficial US delegation to North Korea.“I hope they are not working too hard on it because it is something they will have to give up,” he said. I.L.

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