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US Envoy: North Korea's Nuclear Disarmament on Track

A team of U.S. experts is preparing to travel to North Korea this week to oversee the shutdown of the country's main nuclear facility. As Kate Woodsome reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong, the chief U.S. diplomat involved in the nuclear issue says the disarmament process is on track.

The chief U.S. envoy to the North Korean nuclear talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, says he does not expect any problems during this phase of the North Korean nuclear deal.

North Korea has agreed to dismantle its nuclear facilities by the end of the year, in return for food and energy aid and diplomatic concessions from the United States and the other parties to the nuclear talks.

As part of that deal, U.S. experts are en route to North Korea to oversee the disabling of Pyongyang's main nuclear complex, at Yongbyon.

As he prepared Wednesday to meet his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Kwan, Hill told reporters in Beijing that for the moment, there is nothing left to negotiate.

"We have an understanding of what needs to be done so these are just issues subject to technical matters," said Hill. "We are not in a situation where we want to do more and they want to do less. I think we're beyond that."

But Hill has consistently cautioned that there is a long way to go before North Korea is truly nuclear-free.

International efforts to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions have been ongoing since 2003. They gained urgency last year, after Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear weapons test.

The U.S. inspection team is expected to travel to North Korea Thursday to oversee what may be the real start of the disarmament process. It will be the team's second trip this month.

North Korea has already switched off the Yongbyon reactor, and the aim now is to make it very difficult to restart it. In return for the shutdown, Pyongyang received 100,000 tons of oil.

In all, North Korea has been promised another 900,000 tons of oil, or equivalent aid, if it upholds its disarmament commitments.

Hill says he also will meet with Chinese and Russia officials while in Beijing. China, Russia, South Korea and Japan are the other parties to the nuclear talks.