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Nuclear Talks Drag On amid Hope of Deal
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Negotiators at the six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue were yesterday working overtime to reach a deal during lengthy, intensive and tough negotiations in Beijing.


They continued talks into the early hours of today with the aim of narrowing differences on a China-prepared draft plan, which proposes halting work within two months at nuclear sites in North Korea, including the Yongbyon reactor, and supplying Pyongyang with alternative energy sources.


Consultations were continuing at 1:30 AM; and a report by Yonhap News Agency said that progress had been made and negotiators were drawing up a revised draft agreement.


It said that "significant progress'" had been achieved and that the negotiators may soon draw up the revised draft of the agreement. Without naming sources, it said that if there is agreement, delegates will meet for a plenary session this morning and release a joint statement.


Representatives from China, the US, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea gathered at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse for the whole day.


The US and North Korea held two bilateral meetings, while Japan and North Korea had their first governmental talks since Tokyo slapped a series of economic sanctions on North Korea following Pyongyang's ballistic missile test launches in July and a nuclear test in October.


China held talks with all other five parties during the day.


Media reports suggested they are likely to conclude the third phase of the fifth-round six-party talks today, which began on a promising note after the US and North Korea showed a willingness to compromise.


But US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who is also the top US nuclear negotiator, said Monday morning that yesterday would be the last day of the talks, with or without a deal.


"I'm off to the last day of the talks," Hill told reporters as he left his hotel. "It is up to North Korea. We have put everything on the table. They just need to make a decision."


But a Japanese lawmaker who met with China's chief delegate Wu Dawei yesterday afternoon quoted him as saying that the focus of the discussions was energy aid to North Korea.


For its side of the bargain, North Korea has agreed "to shut down (its nuclear reactor in) Yongbyon, and to submit a list of other nuclear facilities," Fukushiro Nukaga, former director-general of the Japanese Defense Agency, quoted Wu as saying.


(China Daily February 13, 2007)


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