The United States rejected a North Korean offer to freeze its nuclear programs during three days of multiparty talks, saying only full dismantlement was acceptable, the chief U.S. negotiator said yesterday.
The fifth round of six-party talks, involving the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and host China, ended yesterday, with little apparent progress towards their goal of ending North Korea's nuclear program.
U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill described the talks as a useful stepping stone, but he also underscored the difficulties ahead as negotiators seek agreement on when and how North Korea will declare its nuclear programs, open them to international inspection and then permanently dismantle them.
In a breakthrough deal agreed to in September, North Korea said it would disarm in exchange for aid and security guarantees. It is also demanding a light-water reactor for civil use.
"Our view is that stopping their programs is simply something they have to do," Hill told reporters at the end of the three-day session aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions.
"We don't want to get into a situation where they stop the programs - in short freeze the programs - and then expect us to compensate for a freeze."
He said North Korea proposed negotiating a freeze of its nuclear programs in return for a compensation package.
"We realized how much work we have ahead of us," he said of the latest talks. In the coming weeks, the six countries were likely to form groups of experts to negotiate the "technical underbrush" of a potential disarmament agreement, Hill said.
A Chinese statement at the end of the talks said the parties agreed to hold a second session of the fifth round at the earliest possible date.
"The parties reaffirmed that they would fully implement the (September) joint statement in line with the principle - commitment for commitment, action for action," the statement said.
Hill said it may be difficult to reconvene in December, because of other commitments.