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North Korea Agrees to Return to Nuclear Disarmament Talks


The United States and China say North Korea has agreed to return to nuclear disarmament talks. The announcement came after informal meetings between U.S., Chinese, and North Korean officials in Beijing.

Tuesday's announcement appears to be a breakthrough in a crisis that escalated following North Korea's October 9 testing of a nuclear device.

The chief U.S. negotiator to talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program, Christopher Hill, met with his Chinese and North Korean counterparts Tuesday at the invitation of China.

After a seven-hour meeting, Hill told reporters the three sides agreed multi-party talks should resume soon.

"We believe it will be either in this coming month, in November, possibly in December," he said.

North Korea has boycotted the negotiations, which also include Japan, South Korea, and Russia, since last year, after the United States imposed sanctions on the North for its alleged money laundering activities, counterfeiting and other crimes.

Hill said North Korean officials on Tuesday did not put any conditions on their decision to return to talks, but he said they did bring up the issue of the U.S. financial sanctions.

"They made very clear these were not conditions but they wanted to hear that we would address the issue of financial measures in the context of the talks and I said we would be prepared to create a mechanism, a working group, to address these financial issues," he said.

Hill said the North Koreans did not explain what made them decide to return to negotiations.

U.S. officials say they are now in consultation with other partners in the talks to prepare for a new round of negotiations. Hill said the United States would expect substantial progress in reaching the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. At the last round of talks in 2005, North Korea agreed in principle to abide by promises to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Washington on Tuesday welcomed the North Korean decision but said U.N. sanctions imposed on the North in response to its nuclear test will continue.

Beijing on Tuesday said it had no plans to cut aid to the North, despite Chinese government reports that indicated a drop in oil exports to North Korea in September.

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