N. Korea vows to build its 'deterrent' arsenal after talks end without progress
By Joseph Kahn
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: December 22, 2006
BEIJING: Talks to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program closed Friday without tangible progress, and Pyongyang quickly renewed threats to "improve its nuclear deterrent."
American and Asian diplomats said that during five days of negotiations in Beijing, the North Korean delegation declined to discuss disarmament in formal sessions, insisting that it would do so only after the United States removed financial measures that have further isolated Pyongyang from the international economy.
China, the host for this and previous rounds of the inconclusive negotiations, said the participants in the talks — the United States, China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia — had agreed to "reconvene at the earliest opportunity." A U.S. official said the talks could resume early next year.
But the latest impasse may signal the increased difficulty — analysts say the near impossibility — of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear program now that it has tested a nuclear device and declared itself a nuclear weapons state.
Christopher Hill, chief U.S. envoy at the talks, said the American side had not left "empty handed," arguing that North Korea had at least nominally recommitted itself to a 2005 draft accord to scrap its nuclear weapons. But he acknowledged that the latest round did little to bolster confidence in the six- party negotiating process.
"We are disappointed that we were unable to reach any agreement," Hill said Friday evening. "It was certainly a surprise that they refused to engage on the main issue before the six parties."
But he also suggested that the United States remain committed to finding a diplomatic solution.
"Diplomacy is not an easy task, but like many things in life you have to look at the alternatives," he said.
North Korea's chief negotiator, Kim Kye Gwan, blamed the United States for the stalemate. Referring to the Treasury Department's decision in 2005 to blacklist a bank based in Macao that held North Korean assets, he said financial penalties must be removed before Pyongyang would discuss steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons.
The United States "is using a tactic of both dialogue and pressure, carrots and sticks," Kim said. "We are responding with dialogue and a shield, and by a shield we are saying we will further improve our deterrent."
The Bush administration says the move against the Banco Delta Asia in Macao was triggered by North Korean counterfeiting of U.S. dollars and the laundering of proceeds from drug running and that it has no direct relationship to the nuclear talks.
Hill suggested that the North was using finances as the latest in a long string of excuses to avoid engaging seriously in the nuclear negotiations.