Pyongyang talks with US hit snag: Neighbours remain wary of N Korea's nuclear intentions

THE United States and North Korea appeared to have hit problems last night in high-pressure talks aimed at defusing a potentially dangerous international stand-off over Pyongyang's nuclear policy.

Only hours after optimistic statements from the two sides and a US announcement that the discussions would be extended to Monday, both emerged from a five-hour session saying they had not yet agreed to meet again although they hoped to.

Following a morning round of talks the US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Gallucci, had promised a 'substantive' announcement next week on the negotiations, which focus on two suspect nuclear sites in North Korea, and Pyongyang officials said they were making good progress. There was no indication of what the problem might be from either side.

Fears of the renegade Communist state have not abated in Asia, and the Japanese government continues to maintain an ambivalent position on its own nuclear non-proliferation policy.

The United States initiated a series of talks with North Korea in June after Pyongyang threatened to withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which would have made it a nuclear outlaw in the already tense military stand-off in East Asia. North Korea has responded positively in the talks in the hope of gaining desperately needed economic aid and diplomatic recognition.

But there is deeply held suspicion about Pyongyang's real motives, and in a kind of diplomatic 'Mutt and Jeff' strategy, the US and its two East Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, have been alternating conciliatory statements with harsh warnings to North Korea of what would happen if it persisted with its nuclear ambitions. When President Bill Clinton visited South Korea last weekend, he said that if North Korea were to develop and use a nuclear weapon 'it would mean the end of their country as they know it. We would overwhelmingly retaliate.'

Japan has repeatedly said it will not make its own nuclear weapons. But during last week's G7 summit in Tokyo the Japanese delegation refused to endorse an indefinite extension of the NPT, which expires in two years' time. The government says this is because there is still no national consensus on prolonging the treaty, but Japan's neighbours suspect Tokyo of effectively reserving the nuclear option in the face of the North Korean threat.

Japan has watched the development of North Korea's nuclear programme nervously, and was particularly shocked when at the end of May North Korea test-fired the Rodong 1, a long- range missile which could reach large parts of the Japanese archipelago. On Wednesday Japan's Foreign Minister, Kabun Muto, said the North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, was 'crazy'.

No one has suggested that Japan possesses nuclear weapons. But with its technological expertise and stockpiles of plutonium shipped in from Europe for power plants, the country is in a position to go nuclear in a very short time.

Meanwhile, a congressional committee in Washington has warned that North Korea may be preparing for military confrontation as a way out of its current economic and political isolation. According to the House of Representatives Republican Task Force on Terrorism, Pyongyang is demanding that the West rescue its failing economy, or it will 'strike out against South Korea and/or Japan, shattering the stability of the entire Pacific Rim'.

Since March North Korea has been refusing inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to two buildings inside a nuclear research compound. Scientists from the IAEA believe the buildings may contain evidence that Pyongyang is stockpiling plutonium, a critical ingredient in nuclear bombs.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday

Actress sees off speculation about her face in an amazing way

News

Florida mother launched a petition to ban the sale of the dolls

Arts and Entertainment
film

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Extras
indybest
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
News
i100
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Front end web developer - URGENT CONTRACT

£250 - £300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT** Our...

Year 3 Teacher

£21000 - £31000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teachers - Chelm...

ABAP Developer

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: SAP ABAP Developer - Rugb...

Head of Finance - Media

£80000 - £90000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Working for an International Mul...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?