PUSAN, South Korea (Reuters) - Efforts to bring North Korea back to disarmament talks were in tatters on Thursday as Pyongyang stormed out of a meeting with the South and a senior U.S. diplomat left the region after a week of shuttle diplomacy. The deadlock threw the spotlight back on wrangling over a U.N. resolution censuring North Korea for its July 5 missile tests, which has pitted Japan against China and Russia.
Kyodo news agency reported that Japan was now prepared to work on an alternative Security Council resolution sponsored by Moscow and Beijing that urges North Korea to suspend its nuclear programs but avoids the mandatory sanctions Tokyo has sought.
"What is important is to adopt a binding resolution," the agency quoted an official as saying on condition of anonymity.
<snip> "The South side will pay a price before the nation for causing the collapse of the ministerial talks and bringing a collapse of North-South relations that is unforeseeable now," the North Koreans said in a statement before leaving for the airport, a day before the meeting was due to end.
The North Koreans demanded that the South stop joint military drills with the United States due next year, saying it was ready to protect South Korea with its 1.2-million-strong armed forces.
That provoked an unusually biting reply from South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok that echoed the rhetoric of the years before Seoul's determined policy of rapprochement.
"Who in the South asked you to protect our safety?" Lee told Kwon on Tuesday, according to a South Korean official. "It would help our safety for the North not to fire missiles or develop a nuclear program."
The South said the North could also forget about any more aid until it returns to separate talks on its nuclear weapons.
China and the United States have also urged the reclusive communist state to return to six-country talks with South Korea, Japan and Russia on winding up its nuclear arms program.
The negotiations stalled last November because Pyongyang objected to U.S. financial sanctions based on accusations North Korea counterfeited U.S. currency and trafficked drugs.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said a "friendship delegation" sent to Pyongyang by Beijing, the closest North Korea has to an ally, had failed to achieve a breakthrough.
"So far they don't seem to be interested in listening, much less doing anything," he told reporters before leaving Beijing for Washington. "I think the Chinese are as baffled as we are."
Hill said he was confident the United Nations would send a "very strong, very clear message" to Pyongyang over the barrage of missiles it test-fired last week.
However, Tokyo said it was still seeking a Security Council vote on a resolution that would impose sanctions for the North Korean missiles, which splashed into the sea off its west coast.