America warns North Korea that sanctions may replace diplomacy

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The Independent Online

Talks on North Korea's nuclear programme have reached a "fork in the road" between diplomacy and sanctions, America's top envoy on the issue said yesterday.

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill called for progress at the talks, which are set to resume after a 13-month hiatus during which the North detonated an atomic bomb.

Negotiators were gathering to discuss how to implement a September 2005 agreement, the only accord reached at the six-nation talks, under which the North pledged to disarm in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

Mr Hill said when he arrived in Beijing that all sides "have to take those ideas on paper and move them to the ground". He continued: " We can either go forward on a diplomatic track or ... go to a much more difficult track ... that involves sanctions."

The UN Security Council passed a resolution punishing the North's 9 October nuclear test with sanctions barring its weapons trade. But it is not clear how much effect those measures have had given the North's economic isolation and the fact that its main trading partners, China and South Korea, have so far held back from taking tough measures.

South Korea's main envoy, Chun Yung-woo, said that the talks that have taken place sporadically since 2003 faced "more difficult conditions than other times" because of the atomic test.

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