The first six-nation arms talks in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test ended Friday without any agreement on getting the communist nation to move toward disarmament, and negotiators weren’t even able to schedule a date for more meetings.
During five days of meetings in Beijing after the North ended a 13-month boycott, negotiators had said Pyongyang refused to address its nuclear weapons but instead stuck to a demand that U.S. financial restrictions on the regime be lifted.
The talks were to end Friday with a statement being issued solely by the Chinese hosts — not a joint statement signed by all six countries involved, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu said.
A Japanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said no new date had been set for further nuclear talks, which also include Russia, South Korea and the United States.
Credibility of talks questioned
Earlier, Japan’s top envoy questioned whether the talks would survive as a forum for dealing with North Korea’s weapons if they failed again to make any progress. In more than three years of meetings, the North has only committed in principle to disarm but taken no concrete steps to do so — instead going ahead with its first nuclear test on Oct. 9.
“There will be opinions questioning the credibility of the six-party talks,” Kenichiro Sasae said, without elaborating. He did not say what alternative formats would be proposed, if any.
The U.S. envoy accused North Korea ahead of Friday’s meetings of not addressing the actual issue of its atomic programs.
“When the (North) raises problems, one day it’s financial issues, another day it’s something they want but they know they can’t have, another day it’s something we said about them that hurt their feelings,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said. “What they need to do is to get serious about the issue that made them such a problem ... their nuclear activities.”
The North has insisted the U.S. desist from its campaign to isolate the country from the international financial system to halt North Korea’s alleged counterfeiting and money laundering. Negotiators have said the North Koreans have refused to even talk about their nuclear bombs until that issue is resolved.
American and North Korean experts had separate talks on the financial issue this week in Beijing, but made no breakthroughs and were tentatively set to meet in the United States next month.