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U.S. envoy says North Korea nuclear talks hit stalemate

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BEIJING — International talks on North Korea's nuclear program stalled on Wednesday, envoys said, after the communist regime snubbed a Chinese proposal outlining how monitors could verify its past atomic activities.

North Korea was refusing to allow outside inspectors take samples from its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon — a key method of checking whether the country was truthful in its accounting of its nuclear programs.

China offered a proposal on the tricky issue but the top U.S. negotiator, Christopher Hill, said North Korea was not compromising during talks Wednesday.

"We did not make any progress today. Not at all," Hill told reporters after meetings with chief envoys from North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

"Most delegations were prepared to work on the Chinese text," Hill said. "There was a consensus on how to move forward. That consensus was not shared by the DPRK." The DPRK is the acronym for North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"Differences were not narrowed," said South Korea's representative, Kim Sook.

It was not immediately clear how long the talks that began Monday would last. They were originally scheduled to run for three days, but the envoys were scheduled to meet again Thursday morning, said Cho Yun-soo, a spokesman for the South Korean delegation.

Kim cited his North Korean counterpart as saying that samples were not currently an option because Pyongyang did not trust Washington.

Hill said the U.S. was not trying to single out the North but was simply looking for a verification system that "works throughout the world."

"We're not looking to create some kind of North Korean exceptionalism," he said. "We're not looking for anything new, or different. We're looking for tried and tested ways of conducting verification."

The six-party talks have taken place in fits and starts since 2003. In 2006, North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test. Pyongyang agreed to a disarmament-for-aid pact in 2007, but the disarmament process stalled in August amid the verification standoff.

The talks are also looking at setting a schedule for delivery of the remaining fuel oil aid to the impoverished country and determining a timetable for disabling its nuclear facilities.

North Korea submitted an inventory of its past activities in June. U.S. officials said North Korea agreed previously to allow experts to take samples and conduct forensic tests at all of its declared nuclear facilities and undeclared sites.

But Pyongyang says it agreed only to let nuclear inspectors visit its main atomic complex in Yongbyon, view related documents and interview scientists — not take samples.

Associated Press writer Kwang-Tae Kim in Beijing contributed to this report.