BEIJING – Negotiators for the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs continued talks late into the night Monday, while a South Korean news report said that progress has been made and they may draw up a revised draft agreement later the same day.
The representatives from North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia who gathered in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse from morning to afternoon continued to hold a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings in the late evening.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported Monday evening that “significant progress” has been achieved in the talks and that the negotiators may draw up the revised draft of their agreement document Monday evening.
Without naming its source, the report said that if final arrangements are made, the delegates will meet for a plenary session on Tuesday morning and announce a joint statement.
The report of progress contrasted with earlier remarks by a South Korean official, who said the talks may continue until Tuesday.
“They are likely to continue this tomorrow,” the South Korean official said in the afternoon. Another diplomatic source involved in the negotiations said that, as of late Monday afternoon, there was no telling when the talks would end.
The six delegates are trying to reach an agreement on a package of steps to be taken in the preliminary phase of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but the attempt has been bogged down by North Korea’s demand for a huge amount of energy aid.
A Japanese lawmaker who met with China’s chief delegate Wu Dawei on Monday afternoon quoted him as saying that the focus of the discussions was on how big the energy assistance should be and how they should be financed by the other five countries.
As its side of the bargain, North Korea has agreed “to shut down (its nuclear reactor in) Yongbyon, and to submit a list of other nuclear facilities,” former Japanese Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga quoted Wu as saying.
The 5-megawatt reactor at the Yongbyon complex produces material that can be turned into weapons-grade plutonium.
According to diplomatic sources, North Korea is demanding 2 million tons of fuel oil annually plus 2 million kilowatts of electricity for fulfilling its obligations in the initial stage of denuclearization.
The 2-million-kilowatt capacity is believed to be equal to that which two light-water reactors that were to have been built under a 1994 accord between the United States and North Korea would have generated. The accord, known as the Agreed Framework, later collapsed.
Separate sources close to the talks said North Korea is also demanding that extra energy aid be given to the country while it takes the initial denuclearization steps. The extra aid is believed to be the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of tons of fuel oil, the source said.
Delegates said in the morning that the ball was in North Korea’s court.
“It’s up to the North Koreans. I think we’ve put everything on the table,” Hill said before heading for the day’s talks. “I think they just need to make a decision.
“We will make our utmost effort to cooperate with the other parties to . . . reach an agreement,” Kenichiro Sasae, director general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, told reporters separately.
“But whether we can do so or not mainly depends on North Korea’s attitude today,” he said.
The initial steps the negotiators are trying to compile will implement a broad agreement of September 2005 that commits North Korea to abandoning nuclear arms and programs in exchange for economic assistance and security guarantees.
The delegates have been trying to work out the wording of a joint statement outlining the preliminary steps based on a draft circulated by China, which is hosting and chairing the talks.
While the contents of the draft have not been made public, it is believed to require that North Korea carry out initial denuclearization measures within two months and that the five other countries begin providing North Korea with energy and economic assistance at the same time.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.