N Korea talks 'near to deadlock'
A meeting between North Korea and the US failed to make progress at ongoing talks over the North's nuclear plans, China's state news agency has said.
"The two sides could not narrow their differences on the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Xinhua quoted a South Korean delegate as saying.
The meeting was on the sidelines of six-nation talks in Beijing.
Despite entering their 11th day, the talks now show little sign of producing a common declaration of principles.
Delegates from all six nations - the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia - are still trying to negotiate a common statement, although there is increasing talk of deadlock.
The US has demanded North Korea abandon its nuclear ambitions, which Pyongyang has previously indicated it was prepared to do, providing it was given aid and security guarantees.
But the US has always insisted that the North dismantle its nuclear capabilities before concessions are made - a request Pyongyang refuses to countenance.
The latest issue to divide the two sides appears to be the North's wish to retain what it termed a "peaceful nuclear capacity".
Oct 2002: US says North Korea is enriching uranium in violation of agreements
Dec 2002: North Korea removes UN seals from Yongbyon nuclear reactor, expels inspectors
Feb 2003: IAEA refers North Korea to UN Security Council
Aug 2003: First round of six-nation talks begins in Beijing
Feb 2005: Pyongyang says it has built nuclear weapons for self-defence
On Thursday evening, North Korean chief delegate Kim Kye-gwan insisted that his country should enjoy the right of peaceful nuclear power.
"We are not a defeated nation in war, and we have committed no crime, so why should we not be able to conduct peaceful nuclear activities?" Mr Kim said.
The US wants all the North's nuclear facilities dismantled, and has said it is not prepared to compromise on the issue.
Other delegates at the six-party talks have also expressed their frustration at the lack of progress, and their eagerness to see some sort of resolution.
On Friday, Japan's chief delegate Kenichiro Sasae likened the process to "birth pains".
US negotiator Christopher Hill also signalled that the end of the talks was near - although there is still no definite final date.
"We are getting very much to the end of the process," he told reporters on Friday.
The nuclear crisis first erupted in 2002, when the US accused North Korea of pursuing an uranium enrichment project to make nuclear weapons.
The stand-off deepened when Pyongyang withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and tensions were raised further when it announced earlier this year that it had plutonium-based nuclear weapons.
The North continues to deny US reports of a uranium-based capability.
Three previous rounds of talks have ended in failure, but this fourth round has gone on for a much longer time, in what analysts saw as a sign that all sides seemed determined to find a solution.
Last modified August 5, 2005