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US Envoy: North Korea Disabling Nuclear Programs

  • Daniel Schearf

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill has returned from a visit to North Korea where he says nuclear disablement is going well, but gaps remain on Pyongyang's agreed nuclear declaration. Hill is in Beijing to discuss scheduling a new round of North Korean nuclear talks with Chinese officials. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Hill arrived in Beijing after two days of talks with North Korean officials and an inspection of disablement activities at North Korea's nuclear facilities.

The top U.S. negotiator visited North Korea's main Yongbyon nuclear complex and said disablement was moving as fast as possible.

Hill also met with North Korean officials who told him they would meet an end of year deadline to declare all nuclear programs and materials.

But Hill said there were still differences on what should be included in the declaration. Hill said in discussions about the draft declaration, North Korea, known officially as the DPRK, left out materials, installations, and programs that he said should be included.

"We do not want a declaration that arrives and that immediately people see what is missing," said Hill. "So, the DPRK is under an obligation to provide a complete and correct declaration. So, we wanted to discuss what we believe is necessary for complete and correct."

Hill would not give details of what exactly he believes North Korea left out of the planned declaration. But, it is likely to involve the long-standing U.S. accusation that North Korea has been running a secret uranium enrichment program in addition to its publicly acknowledged plutonium program.

After the U.S. presented evidence of the program in 2002, North Korea promptly withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, kicked U.N. nuclear inspectors out of the country, and re-started its plutonium nuclear reactor.

In October last year, Pyongyang used nuclear material from its plutonium reactor in a successful test of its first nuclear bomb and is now believed to have produced enough nuclear material for several more bombs.

Six-nation talks involving North and South Korea, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia started in 2003 to de-nuclearize North Korea and earlier this year produced a plan.

In return for disabling, and eventually giving up, all its nuclear programs and materials, North Korea is to receive much needed fuel oil, aid, and diplomatic recognition.

Hill said he would meet with Chinese officials Thursday to discuss scheduling for the next round of six-nation negotiations before heading Friday to Japan.

He said the talks were supposed to resume this month but might have to be pushed back to January because of scheduling conflicts and the Christmas holiday.

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