Negotiators failed to make any progress Wednesday over a Chinese proposal on verifying North Korea’s atomic activities in marathon talks aimed at ending the communist state’s nuclear drive.
Discussions at a Chinese government compound in western Beijing focused on the exact wording of a verification protocol, based on a draft which host China handed out Tuesday to participants in the six-nation talks.
"It was a tough and long day today… we did not make any progress today, not at all, not with me," US chief negotiator Christopher Hill said at the end of the third day of the latest round of talks.
The talks, originally launched in 2003, group North and South Korea with China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
"We had some real difficulty in consensus on moving forwards… in terms of coming up with the verification agreement, we don’t seem to be narrowing differences," Hill added.
The dispute over verification is the latest snag in a drawn-out effort to undo the nuclear programme of the secretive North Korean regime, which tested an atomic weapon for the first time in October 2006.
The painstaking drafting process follows North Korea’s claim in October that it had never agreed to the sampling of atomic material as a viable verification procedure, which the US and others say is a crucial method.
Hosts China would announce later if the talks would continue on Thursday, Hill said, following the three-hour session Wednesday.
The latest deadlock came as North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper accused the United States of using the six-party talks as a smokescreen to launch a pre-emptive strike on the nation.