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American Envoy in China to Prepare for North Korea Nuclear Talks


U.S. envoy Christopher Hill is in China to prepare for the resumption of the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks. VOA's Luis Ramirez has more from the Chinese capital.

Assistant Secretary of State Hill arrived in Beijing Monday for consultations with Chinese officials. This is his second visit since North Korea late last month agreed to return to the six-party negotiations that it has boycotted for a year.

However, the United States says the North should come back only if it is ready to make concrete commitments to dismantle its nuclear program. There has been a series of nuclear talks since 2003, which have made little progress.

Hill told reporters at the Beijing airport Monday he is here to prepare for serious discussions.

"The issue for us to is to make sure that we are extremely well planned and ready for the six-party talks, which we do anticipate will get going again pretty soon," he said. "We'll be talking to the Chinese hosts about a date."

Officials say that date could be as early as the beginning of next month.

Hill is to meet on Tuesday with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei. Also in Beijing for consultations are the negotiators for Japan and South Korea. Russia is the sixth country in the disarmament talks.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing's People's University says the need to reach an agreement with Pyongyang has grown more urgent since North Korea tested a nuclear weapon last month.

"Now the situation is a little different from before North Korea conducted a nuclear test. They want other powers to recognize their nuclear status," commented Shi.

The United States has said it cannot accept North Korea as a nuclear state.

Washington has called on Pyongyang to live up to the commitment it made last year to dismantle its nuclear programs in exchange for a package of aid and security guarantees.

After his meetings in China, Mr. Hill will travel, later in the week, to Japan and South Korea.

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