North Korea on Tuesday insisted it has a right to a peaceful nuclear program, dimming prospects for progress at international talks on ending the communist nation's atomic weapons program.
Envoys were arriving in Beijing for the resumption later Tuesday of six-nation talks on the issue. The latest round, the fourth since 2003, broke for a recess last month after a record 13 straight days of talks failed to yield an agreement.
The North's demands for a civilian nuclear program have become a sticking point, with Washington strongly resisting the notion, saying North Korea's record proves it can't be trusted with any atomic project.
North Korean chief negotiator Kim Kye Gwan said before he left for Beijing that his country will not tolerate any obstruction to its right to a peaceful nuclear program, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.
"This right is neither awarded nor needs to be approved by others," Kim said in Pyongyang. "If the United States tries to set obstacle to (North Korea's) using this right, we can utterly not accept that."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Monday upon his arrival in Beijing that he wasn't sure how long the talks would last, but would know more after contacts with the North Koreans. No one-on-one meetings between the sides were planned, but Hill said he expected to speak with the North at a dinner Tuesday evening for all delegates.
"I know that my delegation is coming here to work, we know pretty precisely what the issues are. I hope the (North Korean) delegation has also done some homework," Hill said as he arrived at his hotel.
South Korea's chief negotiator called for envoys to be open-minded at the talks.
"If each party can be a little more flexible in its position there will be good results, but if they stick to their current position, good results will be hard to expect," South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said as he arrived in Beijing.