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North Korea Misses Deadline to Shut Down Nuclear Reactor

An April 14 deadline has passed and there are no signs that North Korea has begun to shut down its main nuclear reactor, as it agreed to do in February. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Beijing, where diplomats have gathered to see where the nuclear disarmament negotiations are going next.

The four-year-old process to get North Korea to begin dismantling its nuclear programs remained stalled Saturday.

North Korea failed to shut down its main reactor at Yongbyon, because it has yet to receive any of the $25 million that was unfrozen at a bank in Macau. The transfer of the funds, which were in North Korean accounts, has been delayed by what officials describe as banking technicalities.

The United States envoy to the six-nation nuclear negotiations, Christopher Hill, met with Chinese officials here Saturday to discuss the next step. Hill said the momentum of the disarmament process has slipped, and he planned to return to Washington on Sunday.

"Obviously, when you see a deadline missed, there's reason to be concerned," said Mr. Hill.

However, Hill did not suggest the process has been derailed. He said all the participants in the negotiations, which also include the two Koreas, Japan, and Russia, will remain in close contact. Hill said officials of China, the host of the negotiations, urged patience on Saturday.

"The Chinese were not discouraged by this process, and do believe there's some progress being achieved," he said. "For that reason, they ask that - I wouldn't say show patience - I would say [we] continue to show patience, because that's exactly what we've been doing."

The funds were frozen at Macau's Banco Delta Asia during an 18-month U.S. investigation into alleged money laundering by the bank. After the February agreement in the nuclear negotiations, the U.S. opened the way for the release of the money.

North Korea on Friday said it would begin shutting down its nuclear program as soon as it confirmed the funds had been transferred.