Korean peace talks reach impasse over U.S. presence Demand for troop pullout stalls effort after a week

March 22, 1998|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

GENEVA -- A week of talks aimed at creating a framework for peace on the tense Korean peninsula ended in an impasse yesterday with the United States and North Korea blaming each other for the failure.

The sticking point was the North Korean insistence that withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea be a key item on the agenda of the talks, which involve South Korea, North Korea, the United States and China. U.S. officials have repeatedly refused that demand, prompting North Korea's chief negotiator, Kim Gye Gwan, to say that he did not see the point of continuing discussions.

Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth said the United States remained committed to the peace effort, which began here in December with the goal of a treaty to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War.

"We came here prepared to make progress toward peace," Roth said after a one-hour meeting yesterday. "We proposed to negotiate steps to reduce sanctions and build confidence on the Korean peninsula. Unfortunately the North Korean delegation was not prepared to do so.

"We remain committed to the four-party process and the search for a permanent peace, and look forward to resuming this effort at the next round."

Negotiators added an additional session this morning to try to overcome five days of stalemate and keep alive the chance of more talks. No date was set for renewed negotiations, although future talks were not ruled out.

China's assistant foreign minister, Chen Jian, who was chairman of the talks, said that both the United States and North Korea appeared equally inflexible.

North Korea focused on the pullout of the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, and U.S. officials insisted on beginning with "confidence-building" measures to overcome suspicion on both sides.

Pub Date: 3/22/98

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