Tension persisted between the United States and North Korea as the three-day conference ended. Pyongyang brought out the brinkmanship and bluster that has characterized its diplomacy in recent years, but also, more obliquely, signaled it wouldn't be averse to a compromise. And China said all six countries had agreed not to "escalate the situation" as long as dialogue continued.
"The DPRK and the U.S. should make clear their will to clear up bilateral concerns," the North's official news agency, KCNA, said Friday, using the abbreviation for the country's full name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The DPRK will clarify its will to dismantle its nuclear program if the U.S. makes clear its will to give up its hostile policy," KCNA said.
According to a U.S. government official who spoke on condition of anonymity, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong Il said at the talks Thursday that his country has the means to deliver nuclear weapons. He also said the North would prove it had nuclear devices by testing them. BEGIN POSITION 3 END POSITION 3
North Korea's strident rhetoric is well-known and it has made such intimidating statements before, leading some to caution against a rush to judgment based on its comments.
"We've seen these tantrum tactics before, usually in response to a U.S. refusal to acquiesce to the North's demands," Molly Pickett, director of the Nonproliferation Project at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation in Washington, said in a statement.
According to South Korea and China, the countries agreed they want to solve the problem peacefully - and address North Korea's security concerns as well. Where and when the next talks will take place haven't been decided.
"I believe these issues can be resolved," Wang Yi, China's vice foreign minister, said in a statement on behalf of all six participants. "What is important is to maintain this momentum of dialogue that has not come easily."
But, he acknowledged, "the differences between the two sides are comprehensive."
There was no immediate comment from the United States after the talks ended.
A pact to meet again was about the best anyone had predicted out of the six-country conference, which convened Wednesday and brought together the United States, the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia. "No one expected this first round of talks would produce agreement on all issues," said Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck, the head of South Korea's delegation.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov agreed. "There was no failure. But there was no breakthrough either," Losyukov said, according to Russia's Interfax news agency. "It is not surprising."
Mitoji Yabunaka, head of the Japanese delegation, said there were differences but "what's important from now is how we overcome these differences. For that, I think continuing the process of these six-member talks is important."
The United States says North Korea must end its nuclear program immediately. The North says it won't rule that out - but won't even consider it until key demands, such as a nonaggression pact with Washington and humanitarian aid, are met.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department said only that the American goal is to focus on "the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination" of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly did not comment to reporters as he left his Beijing hotel for the final talks Friday.
As the talks ended, KCNA released what it said was the speech that Kim delivered to the conference Wednesday. Its contents signaled, behind the rhetoric, a willingness by the North to continue negotiations by saying both sides should take "simultaneous actions" to resolve the issue.
Kim demanded the United States resume shipments of oil, expand humanitarian aid and sign a nonaggression treaty.
"In return," KCNA quoted him as saying, "North Korea does not make nuclear weapons and allows inspections and ultimately dismantles nuclear facilities and suspends missile test-firing and halts missile exports."
North Korea had confirmed privately to U.S. officials in April during talks in China that it possessed nuclear weapons. But Kim's statement Thursday is believed to be its first such acknowledgment in a formal setting.
All the governments represented in Beijing had expressed varying degrees of opposition to the North's nuclear programs. China, a longtime ally, also has said repeatedly that it wants a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Its delegation leader, Wang, said American officials pledged they weren't trying to do in North Korea what they did in Iraq.
"The U.S. said that the U.S. had no intention to threaten North Korea, no intention to invade North Korea, no intention to work for regime change in North Korea," Wang said.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.
BEGIN POSITION 10