North Korean nuclear talks set to resume

14 September 2005

Six-party talks on the issue of the North Korean nuclear programme are scheduled to resume in Beijing. Pyongyang insists it has the right to a peaceful nuclear energy programme, a position the Western powers are reluctant to accede to.

The delegations, from the China, Japan, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and the USA are expected to hold one-on-one meetings before the main group meeting. The key sticking point is likely to be US insistence that Washington will not permit Pyongyang to operate a civilian nuclear programme, according to recent comments attributed to the chief negotiator for the USA, assistant secretary of state Christopher Hill. The statement effectively rules out Western cooperation building light water reactors for North Korea.

Under a now defunct 1994 agreement, the two reactors were to have been built by a US-led consortium to replace North Korea's existing graphite-moderated reactors, which can produce weapons-grade plutonium. Hill is instead urging Pyongyang to focus on the concessions already offered in return for a commitment to disarm, rather than to press for new demands.

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