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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an I...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen