N. Korea Nuke Talks Extended

Japanese chief negotiator Kenichiro Sasae, center, leads members of his delegation as they walk through a hotel before leaving for a fifth day of talks on the North Korean nuclear issue, in Beijing Saturday Sept 17, 2005. Delegates to the six party talks aimed at getting North Korea to abandon attempts to acquire nuclear weaponry were set Saturday to discuss a compromise proposal drafted by China that affirms the North's right to pursue peaceful nuclear activities. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
AP
Talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program will continue beyond a Saturday deadline that had been set for negotiators to respond to a new draft agreement affirming Pyongyang's right to peaceful nuclear activities after it disarms.

It wasn't immediately clear how all six countries involved in the talks had responded to the new draft and some had said there was dissatisfaction with it, but the Chinese media center for the negotiations, being held in Beijing, said meetings would continue Sunday.

All chief envoys were also set to attend a dinner Saturday evening hosted by Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo.

Earlier Saturday, the main U.S. envoy declined to comment on whether Washington approved of the new proposal. The North on Friday had steadfastly refused to give up its nuclear program without any concessions from the United States, a stance that puts it at odds with Washington.

"The Chinese have given us a text to react to, some ideas, so we're looking at those and having some internal discussions and talking with people in Washington," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Saturday morning.

"We'll see where we go," he said. "We've had a fairly fast pace for the last 24 hours and I think that will continue for the next 24 hours."

Seeking to break the deadlock, host China proposed that North Korea retain the right to a civilian nuclear program after abandoning its weapons, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev said Friday.

The proposal contains "compromise wording which could satisfy both sides," Alexeyev said, referring to the United States and North Korea.

However, Japan's envoy to the talks said none of the participants were completely happy with the new draft.

"All the participants concerned have some points that they are unsatisfied with," Kenichiro Sasae, director of the Asia and Oceania Bureau at Japan's Foreign Ministry, said Saturday. "We are not necessarily satisfied."

"I don't think that we can see the prospects for reaching an agreement yet," Sasae told reporters.