By Roger Wilkison
- North Korea says it will not abandon nuclear weapons until all sanctions against it are lifted, while the United States says its patience with North Korean negotiating tactics is running out. Roger Wilkison reports on the inauspicious beginning to a new round of six-party talks in Beijing - the first in 13 months, which are aimed at persuading Pyongyang to disarm.
The North Koreans came with a laundry list of demands: U.S. financial sanctions imposed for its alleged counterfeiting of U.S. dollars and money laundering must be dropped.
U.N. sanctions imposed on it for conducting a nuclear test in October must also be lifted. And, Pyongyang wants a new light-water nuclear reactor built on its territory, the cost to be paid by others, before it will give up its nuclear weapons.
Delegations from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States want North Korea to begin implementing an agreement that all six countries signed in September 2005. Under that deal, the impoverished North is to abandon its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees from the other parties.
But since testing a nuclear device in October, Pyongyang now considers itself a nuclear power and wants to be treated on a par with the United States.
U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill told reporters his tolerance for North Korea's attitude is running out.
"The supply of our patience may have exceeded the international demand for that patience. And we should be a little less patient and pick up the pace an work a little faster," said Mr. Hill.
Hill says he will not meet bilaterally with the North Koreans until he consults with the other delegations.
Japan says the North Korean negotiating position is unacceptable. Host China, ostensibly an ally of Pyongyang, is demanding flexibility from all sides. South Korea says North Korea should take bold steps toward denuclearization and the other parties should be equally bold in offering incentives to Pyongyang.
Hill, referring to North Korea by its official name - the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK, says the talks, which have been going on intermittently for three years, have reached a crucial point.
"Frankly, I cannot tell you at this point which road the DPRK is choosing," he noted. "We can go either road. We would like denuclearization by a diplomatic negotiation, but if they do not want that, we are quite prepared to go the other road."
And that other road would mean a continuation of sanctions that Hill says would isolate North Korea even further to the detriment of its stagnant economy.