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US May Consider Options To Stop North Korea's Nuclear Program if Talks Fail

A key U.S. official is warning North Korea that the United States may seek other ways to halt Pyongyang's nuclear program if there is no progress in negotiations toward that end. The top U.S. negotiator to the talks, Ambassador Christopher Hill, made his comments on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

Ambassador Hill called on China, as host of the six-party talks, to do more to get North Korea to return to the negotiating table.

"As yet, the Chinese have not yet been able to bring everyone to the table," said Christopher Hill. "Clearly, this cannot go on for ever."

Ambassador Hill, who currently serves as U.S. ambassador to South Korea, has been nominated to be assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. He made his comments at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

Although he said the six-party talks are the best way to deal with Pyongyang's nuclear program, he also said the United States would consider other action if the stalemate in the negotiations continues.

"We need to see some progress, and if we do not, we need to look at other ways to deal with this," he said.

Ambassador Hill did not elaborate, but Washington has raised the possibility of seeking United Nations sanctions. U.S. officials have underscored that the United States has no intention of using military force against North Korea.

Little progress was reported in three rounds of talks with China, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Japan and Russia. Pyongyang refused to attend a fourth round scheduled for last September.

North Korea announced last month it had nuclear weapons and said it would not take part in negotiations.

Although Ambassador Hill said allies are unified in wanting North Korea to give up its nuclear program, he expressed concern that South Korea's sunshine policy of engagement with Pyongyang might be sending the communist state the wrong signal.

"We do not want to create a situation where the North Koreans can exploit perceived differences between us," said Christopher Hill. "So what is important from our point of view is to be in very close contact, very close consultation with the South Korean government, to make sure first of all that we do not have surprises, to make sure they do not go ahead with some sort of policy that seems, in our view, ill-advised or ill-timed."

Ambassador Hill expressed similar concerns over Russian trade with North Korea.