North Korea Nuclear Talks Yield Makings of Consensus

Talks on how to go about dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons programme ended on Friday with the U.S. envoy saying they had created the makings of consensus but more wrangling was needed to hash out key terms.

The talks in the capital of northeast China's Liaoning province have focused on defining what Pyongyang must do in the second phase of a disarmament deal struck at six-party talks in February.

North Korea last month shut its Yongbyon reactor complex that produces weapons-grade plutonium in return for 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil under the first phase of the deal struck between it, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The latest talks were seeking agreed definitions on what the North must do to "disable" its atomic facilities and declare all nuclear activities and materials.

The discussions were in preparation for full talks between the six countries due around the end of this month.

If it carries out agreed steps, North Korea will get 950,000 more tonnes of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid and secure the prospect of improved ties with the United States and Japan.

The fine print of what "disablement" means and what North Korea must disclose holds potential pitfalls that could yet frustrate or even derail the February deal.

But chief U.S. negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, came out of the two-day talks saying they had built the scaffolding for agreement.

"I think we now have the basis for achieving a consensus on these issues," he told reporters.

"I felt their (North Korea's) proposals were ones we could work with them on ... And I think we do have the basis for coming together on an agreement on the next phase we will put together on the next six-party plenary."

Hill said more two-way technical talks were needed to explore options before senior negotiators gather to seek a concrete deal.

Lim Sung-nam, deputy chief of the South Korean delegation, said the Shenyang meeting was an opportunity to learn what the reclusive North had in mind for the second phase, according to the Yonhap news service.

"Our understanding of the North's position has significantly deepened," Lim told reporters, according to Yonhap.

China said North Korea also gave a rundown of what it thought should be in its nuclear declaration, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Hill said "disablement" would mean North Korea could not easily restart facilities that helped it stage its first nuclear test-blast in October last year.

"Disablement by definition is not irreversible, but it is not easy to reverse," he said.