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Six-Party Talks to End Without Disarmament Deadline
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The six-party talks aiming to set up a schedule for the permanent dismantling of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) nuclear programs, are expected to end Friday without a disarmament deadline, US chief envoy Christopher Hill said late Thursday as the talks were shrouded in uncertainty.


Hill believed the consensus given was not very successful, although the diplomats had engaged in vigorous discussion over setting a deadline.


Nevertheless, Hill said he continued to believe the DPRK would complete its nuclear disablement before the end of the year as expected, and praised the meeting as "the best one" he had attended.


Hill said that the working groups, regrouping members from all six nations, would likely meet by the end of August to fix certain technical specifics on disablement procedures before all parties reached an overall deadline.


The talks were set to end on Thursday with a chairman's statement, but were extended to Friday morning in an attempt to hammer out a DPRK disarmament promise and an unlikely specific timetable.


Hill said that the parties would meet with China's foreign minister on Friday ahead of the issuance of a closing statement by China. This statement would establish a timetable for the second phase, targets for all five working groups, and a new round plenary session.


Japan's chief delegate Kenichiro Sasae told reporters that China was putting together the negotiation results to date for the next day's talks and the eventual chairman's statement.


"There were points we agreed on, but others on which we diverge," revealed Sasae, adding that the DPRK and Japan were now ready to resume discussions on issues of common concern despite a longstanding rift.


ROK chief negotiator Chun Yung Woo said Thursday's meeting had been conducted in a "more practical atmosphere", during which frank proposals were made by all sides concerning the details of complete disablement of nuclear facilities.


Russian special envoy Vladimir Rakhmanin described the atmosphere as friendly, but warned other participants to not "complicate or simplify the problems discussed".


Given the complexity of the issue, a straightforward timetable would be tricky, said the ROK negotiator.


However, positive signals emerged after the first day of talks with Hill saying on Wednesday that the talks had been "very open and substantive discussions". The ROK negotiator also revealed the DPRK was ready to close down its facilities and reveal nuclear programs within six months.


Although the DPRK made no comment on the ongoing talks, it did hold three one-on-one meetings with the US.


Chun, the ROK negotiator, said earlier on Thursday that the DPRK this time demonstrated "a practical and realistic approach", and that if this could be maintained, this would be a big help on cementing an action plan.


"It might be a controversial discussion about which step to take next," said Tao Wenzhao, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, adding that trust between the DPRK and US would be pivotal to the implementation of the February 13 joint document by the DPRK.


The DPRK has already shut down its Yongbyon facilities, the first step laid down in the joint document, which also provides specific steps for the DPRK's nuclear weapons abandonment and financial compensation.


(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2007)

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