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Korea talks adjourn until September

August 8, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Negotiators from four countries failed to agree on an agenda for a Korean peace conference after North Korea refused to compromise on its demand for U.S. troops to withdraw from South Korea.

During three days of talks, North Korea also insisted that the conference discuss a peace treaty with the United States that excludes South Korea. The discussions, under way since Tuesday at Columbia University, adjourned Thursday and will resume next month.

The goal of the talks _ involving the United States, China and the two Koreas _ was to convene a conference to negotiate a peace agreement to replace the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.

U.S. officials said the four delegations agreed on all issues, except the final shape of the agenda. Once that was agreed on, they said, the foreign ministers of the four countries would meet in Geneva.

A senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the sides disagreed over whether the agenda should be general or specific. The official said talks would resume Sept. 15.

North Korea’s chief negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, said his delegation was the only one to submit specific agenda items.

``We have put forward the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea and the surrounding areas as an agenda item,″ Kim said. ``We also proposed to (discuss) the issue of the conclusion of a peace treaty″ between North Korea and the United States.

Despite the failure to overcome the differences, both U.S. and North Korean officials said they were generally satisfied with the talks. Kim said they would ``greatly help″ the two sides understand one another.

``The atmosphere of this meeting was very good, and leaves me with some confidence that when we resume next month, we will enter into an atmosphere that is still good ... and that we will finish the job in that session,″ the senior U.S. official said.

Sources close to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea also raised the issue of food aid, although the United States and South Korea have tried to keep food out of peace talks.

North Korea is experiencing severe food shortages brought on by two straight years of flooding.

U.S., South Korean and North Korean officials met Thursday morning at a New York hotel to discuss the North’s need for food aid. South Korean sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they believed the North’s hard-line stand on security issues was aimed at extracting more food assistance from the United States.

The officials also said the North Koreans complained about planned military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces, calling it an example of moves that raise unnecessary tensions on the divided peninsula.

In a public lashing, Pyongyang accused the United States today of trying to use economic sanctions as a political tool to get concessions from it in the talks.

North Korea’s official communist party organ, Rodong Sinmun, accused Washington of using the four-way talks as a pretext to escalate sanctions against the hard-line communist state.

President Clinton and South Korean President Kim Young-sam proposed the four-nation talks more than a year ago. It took months of discussions before North Korea agreed to the talks, which include China for the first time.

Update hourly