Six nations agree to extend N. Korea nuclear talks

China presses to discuss possible compromise


BEIJING - Sparring continued yesterday over North Korea's conditions for dismantling its atomic weapons program, with the six nations negotiating over its nuclear program agreeing to extend the talks to a sixth day.

China, the host of the talks, pressed all sides to discuss a compromise proposal that would allow North Korea to retain a nuclear energy program and get a new light-water reactor at some point, but that would require the country first to abandon its nuclear weapons efforts.

Several delegates said yesterday, however, that the parties at the talks - China, Russia, South Korea and Japan as well as North Korea and the United States - had not reached a consensus and would continue for at least another day. The chances for reaching a final agreement remained uncertain.

"No breakthrough has been achieved at this point," Kenichiro Sasae, the chief Japanese representative, told reporters. "The prospects are not bright. We are not satisfied with the situation."

Japan has tended to stick closely to the American position in the talks, while China, South Korea and Russia often seem more sympathetic to North Korea's needs.

China said earlier that it intended to wrap up the negotiations by today, the beginning of its Mid-Autumn Festival holiday.

Delegates suggested that the holidays might force a conclusion of the talks by today, but there was no formal decision to end the discussions by then.

Earlier in the day, Christopher Hill, the chief American negotiator, signaled support for the Chinese compromise plan and urged North Korea to accept it also.

"We think there has been a very good package on the table and we believe the DPRK needs to look very carefully," Hill said, referring to North Korea by its full name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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