WASHINGTON -- U.S. and North Korean officials ended three days of talks Friday without resolving key issues about the Communist nation's missile program, diminishing hopes that President Clinton might make a historic trip to the Asian nation this month.
The talks were "constructive and substantive" and increased "areas of common ground," Robert Einhorn, U.S. assistant secretary of State for nonproliferation, said in a statement from Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital and site of the talks. But significant issues "remain to be explored and resolved," he said.
In Washington, senior U.S. officials said the president may still travel to North Korea before he leaves office. But it appears doubtful the visit will be added to Clinton's trip later this month to Brunei and Vietnam, as had been under consideration. A December trip now seems more likely.
The talks "achieved their goal," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said here.
The United States did not press for a missile agreement in Malaysia, Boucher said. Instead, U.S. officials tried to clarify a proposed arrangement under which North Korea would give up its missile program in exchange for assistance in launching satellites.
Nearly two weeks ago, during a groundbreaking trip to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright negotiated the framework of a deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
A senior U.S. official involved in the policy initiative said this week's talks between weapons experts from both countries were consistent with the proposals presented to Albright.
"They mean serious business," said the official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the talks. "Nothing was taken off the table. We remain very encouraged."
Even so, Washington appears to be slowing what had been an almost frantic pace of diplomacy designed to seal the first stage of U.S.-North Korea rapprochement before Clinton leaves office in January.
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