Talks on N. Korean nuclear program to continue another day, despite deadlock


BEIJING - Negotiators in the North Korean nuclear program talks decided yesterday to meet at least one more day in hopes of breaking a deadlock with North Korea, even as discussions began about what might be salvaged if this round of talks ends without an agreement.

The outcome of this fourth round of nuclear talks appears to rest solely with North Korea, which continues to resist agreeing to a draft joint statement of principles that would move the disarmament talks forward.

The other five nations in the talks - the United States, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan - have essentially agreed to the draft.

Yesterday, the 10th consecutive day of negotiations, began with growing expectation that the talks would be coming to an end. Reporters rushed to the North Korean Embassy as word spread, incorrectly as it turned out, that the North Koreans would hold a news conference to announce their position.

Instead, Qin Gang, a Chinese spokesman, announced early in the evening that the talks would continue today and that all sides "are striving together to reduce their differences." Still, Qin also raised the possibility that the main goal of this round of talks - agreeing on a joint statement of agreed principles as a steering document for future talks - might not be achieved.

"Whether there is a joint document is not the measure of whether the six-party talks are a success," Qin said, according to the official New China News Agency.

Christopher R. Hill, the top American envoy, said the United States, North Korea and South Korea held their first joint meeting yesterday in what he called "an impromptu" gathering. He called it "a useful meeting" but provided no details.

"We're working very hard to see if we can bridge the remaining differences," Hill said.

People involved in the talks say the main obstacle is North Korea's desire to develop nuclear power plants, which the United States and Japan both strongly oppose.

The heads of each delegation met yesterday at the behest of the Chinese and were asked whether they wished to continue, Hill said. They also began preliminary discussions about what sort of statement or document they might produce if the stalemate could not be broken.

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