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US Diplomat Sees Progress in North Korean Nuclear Talks


A top U.S. diplomat says international security efforts in northeast Asia are on the right path, but still have a long way to go. VOA's Alex Villarreal reports from Washington.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte says international efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons are beginning to bear fruit, but much work remains to stabilize and secure the region.

"Discussions have begun," he said. "They are still very tentative and we do believe that more progress needs to be made toward disarming the Korean peninsula. That is the priority task."

In February, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear ambitions in exchange for a million tons of fuel oil and political concessions. The agreement is part of a six-nation deal involving North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Speaking in Washington, Negroponte said the administration is approaching the nuclear issue with urgency and prudence.

"We recognize the challenge before us," he said. "Dealing with the North Koreans is never easy, and we do not have any false expectations."

In July, North Korea shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear complex. Earlier this month, it agreed to disable its main facilities at the Yongbyon site and reveal all of its nuclear programs by the end of the year.

South Korean officials say the disablement process is expected to start within weeks.

Negroponte also called for China and India to use their influence to push for change in Burma, following the country's violent government crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

"We hope China and India will urge the Burmese generals to work with the U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari," he said. "Now is the time for Beijing and New Delhi to forgo energy deals that put money in the pockets of the junta and to suspend weapons sales to this regime."

Gambari is on a six-nation Asian tour to press New Delhi, Beijing and other governments to put more pressure on Burma.

China and India have faced criticism for their mild responses to the crackdown.

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