North Korea talks end in stalemate, future uncertain

By Danny

Dec 11, 2008 12:23pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia Reports: The latest round of the Six Party Talks ended in stalemate today after four days of wrangling to get North Korea to agree on a plan to verify its declared nuclear capability.

"There was a lot of agreement among a majority of the delegations there, but ultimately (North Korea) was not ready to reach a verification protocol with all the standards that are required," US negotiator Christopher Hill said today.

The deadlock effectively ends the Bush administration’s attempts to rid Pyongyang of its nuclear capability and leaves the matter up to the incoming team of President-elect Barack Obama, something the North Koreans might be waiting for before making a deal.

This was actually the second attempt to get a verification deal.

Hill returned from an October trip to North Korea proclaiming that he had secured a deal on verification and as a result the US removed North Korea from its list of State Sponsors of terrorism.

It was soon apparent, however, that the deal Hill obtained in Pyongyang was not as firm as he had indicated. US officials say the agreement was never put into writing and verification efforts reached a dead end over North Korea’s refusal to allow experts to remove samples from its nuclear facilities, something US officials publicly said they would be allowed to do per Hill’s initial agreement.

"What’s unfortunate is that the North Koreans had an opportunity here. There was an open door, and all they had to do was walk through it," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters today.

It appears there will be some cost to North Korea for failing to agree to verification terms this week. The State Department said late today the decision to provide North Korea with energy assistance for its cooperating in de-nuclearization is "under review."

John Bolton, the hawkish former Bush administration official who has loudly and publicly decried Washington’s softer position towards Pyongyang, felt vindicated today when he told the Washington Times, "They should have rethought it about five years ago, because these talks were doomed from the outset, and some of us said so."

The failure of the negotiations in Beijing this week leaves the future of the Six Party Talks in the air. The on-again, off-again talks had shown signs of progress until the recent roadblocks, but it remains to be seen how an Obama administration will approach the negotiations.

Obama has said he will pursue an active diplomatic approach to North Korea’s nuclear program, but it remains to be seen if he will keep Chris Hill as lead negotiator or look to replace him with someone new.

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