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US and North Korea Meet Before Multilateral Nuclear Talks


U.S. and North Korean delegates met in Beijing before joining six-nation talks Tuesday on ending Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons programs.

Chief U.S. negotiator Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill says the meeting with the North Koreans is a chance for both sides to consult before the formal opening of six-nation talks Tuesday. "We are just trying to get acquainted, to review how we see things coming up and compare notes. We are looking forward to working hard and trying to make some progress," he said.

Progress on the nearly three-year long North Korean nuclear dispute is also on the minds of the Japanese, South Korean, Chinese and Russian delegations. Tuesday is to be the first meeting of all six nations since North Korea began a 13-month boycott.

Pyongyang agreed to return to the negotiations July 9, during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Beijing and after South Korea proposed to meet all the North's electricity needs in exchange for nuclear disarmament.

Three previous rounds of negotiations since 2003 have achieved little progress.

The North Korean nuclear dispute erupted in 2002 when the United States said Pyongyang admitted to having a secret nuclear program, in violation of international agreements. Pyongyang says the nuclear-weapons development is for the country's self-defense against forces "hostile" to the communist nation.

The United States and its allies want North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions permanently in exchange for energy aid and possible security pledges.

In a bilateral meeting Sunday, North and South Korean officials said both sides wanted to see "substantial progress" this time around.

Assistant Secretary Hill told reporters Sunday in Beijing that he does not expect the latest round of talks to be the last set of negotiations on the issue.

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