U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said negotiators from North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China are exchanging proposals that will be considered after the four-day talks in Beijing, China, end Saturday.
The discussions, which included a two-and-a-half-hour session Thursday between the United States and North Korea, were productive, said Ereli.
“The parties have been earnest in exploring the various proposals put forward,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “We expect this progress to continue, following the closing of the talks tomorrow.”
Despite the talks, another unnamed U.S. official said the two sides remained “far from agreement,” the AP reported.
When North Korean negotiators reportedly told U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly that some leaders want to test an atomic device, U.S. officials were quick to say that the North had mentioned a nuclear test, but not as a threat.
“I would say on the record that the remarks that are being reported were not phrased as a threat, No. 1,” said Ereli. “It was phrased as a statement that some in Pyongyang wanted to test a nuclear weapon.”
“This is not something new,” he continued. “We’ve heard these sort of comments before. It was not phrased or given as an ultimatum, but rather, to the contrary, I think we came away from this discussion, from this long and involved and engaged discussion, with the firm view that the North Koreans are going to give our proposal very serious consideration.”
While U.S. officials reported no firm progress, China said an agreement had been reached that a freeze would be the first step for North Korea’s denuclearization.
“This round of talks already has reached some results — a fundamental political consensus exists that a nuclear freeze is the first step toward denuclearization and corresponding measures should be adopted,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said at a news conference.
Host China cancelled a closing ceremony for the last day of talks on Saturday. Also, the countries will not release a joint statement. At best, the parties could hope for more talks soon.
The United States offered its most detailed proposal since President Bush took office, but North Korea has not released a statement on that proposal.
The United States offered conditional aid and security guarantees in an effort to end a 20-month stalemate, while North Korea asked that the United States provide 2,000 megawatts of power per year to the North in exchange for freezing its nuclear programs.
“At the point of freeze, the United States should take part in the assistance of 2 million kilowatt capability of energy, delete us from (its) list of state sponsors of terrorism, and eliminate economic sanctions and embargoes,” a North Korean official said in a statement.
“We also indicated again that if the United States gives up its hostile policy toward us, we will give up all plans related to nuclear weapons,” the official said.