BEIJING – Talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program recessed Friday with no sign of progress amid rancor between the North and the United States. Diplomats promised to meet again but set no date.
The fifth round of discussions, which began Wednesday, had been scheduled to break off Friday so diplomats could attend an Asian-Pacific economic conference in South Korea.
The recess came after the North reportedly demanded that the United States lift sanctions on firms accused of weapons proliferation and drop accusations that Pyongyang counterfeits U.S. currency.
Washington was pressing the North to suspend work at a plutonium-producing reactor. But the U.S. envoy said North Korean diplomats refused to do that before a formal agreement is reached.
China issued a statement as chairman of the talks saying negotiators affirmed that they would "fully implement" the declaration at the last round of talks in September, when North Korea promised to disarm in exchange for aid and a security guarantee.
The five-sentence statement said envoys put forward proposals for implementing that September declaration but gave no details.
Participating in the talks are the United States, Japan and Russia, as well as China and the two Koreas.
"The parties reaffirmed that they would fully implement the joint statement in line with the principle of `commitment for commitment, action for action,' so as to realize the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula at an early date," the statement said.
It was read out by China's chief delegate, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, before the other envoys, who applauded but made no comments of their own.
The dispute erupted after Washington said North Korean officials admitted operating a secret nuclear program in violation of a 1994 deal that gave the isolated, impoverished North energy aid in exchange for giving up atomic development.
Earlier, North Korea reportedly accused the United States of undermining the cooperative spirit of the talks and demanded that the U.S. lift sanctions against firms suspected of weapons proliferation and stop accusing the North of counterfeiting U.S. money.
The United States was pressing North Korea to shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and immediately stop reprocessing plutonium — a fuel for bombs — without waiting for negotiators to draft a disarmament plan.
But North Korea "has taken the position that they will not shut down until there is an implementation plan. That is, a fully elaborated plan on when they will actually abandon their nuclear programs," the U.S. envoy, Christopher Hill, said Thursday.
Delegates say this week's discussions were to focus on working out the contentious details of the September agreement.
But the North refuses to disarm completely without getting concessions along the way. In particular, North Korea has demanded a civilian nuclear reactor for power generation before it disarms. Hill said Washington wouldn't discuss the reactor until after the North has dismantled its nuclear programs.
"There have been disputes from the beginning of this round of talks and it has been very difficult to integrate the opinions," said Japan's chief envoy, Kenichiro Sasae.
The North also voiced displeasure over President Bush's reference last week to a tyrant in North Korea, Yonhap said.
"They made clear that they are not happy" about the sanctions and counterfeit accusations, Hill said. "They expressed concern about this and I had to make clear to them that these are law enforcement issues and not six-party issues."
Washington imposed sanctions in October on eight North Korean companies accused of acting as fronts for sales of banned missile, nuclear or biological weapons technology.
The order froze any assets in areas under U.S. jurisdiction, but it wasn't clear whether that had any impact, because the United States bans trade with North Korea.
The United States also accuses North Korea of producing high quality counterfeit $100 bills known as "supernotes."