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US Nuclear Envoy Meets N. Korean Counterpart Amid Declaration Impasse


Washington's top envoy on the North Korean nuclear issue has met with his North Korean counterpart, in hopes of ending Pyongyang's delay in declaring its nuclear programs. The declaration, now months overdue, is a key step in multinational talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear arsenal altogether. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met Tuesday afternoon in Beijing with senior North Korean diplomat Kim Kye Kwan in Beijing, to try to revive the stalled nuclear weapons talks.

Before the meeting, Hill said the key to moving the process forward is in the hands of North Korea, known formally as the DPRK.

"I think the issue is the DPRK needs to be prepared to make a complete and correct declaration," said Hill.

Pyongyang promised early last year it would provide a detailed declaration of all its nuclear activities by the end of 2007. Two months later, negotiators are still waiting.

The declaration is part of a much larger process involving the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea. These nations would reward North Korea financially and diplomatically in exchange for steps toward complete nuclear disarmament. Pyongyang has taken significant steps toward stopping and disabling its main plutonium production facility at Yongbyon.

After his meeting in Beijing, Hill said he and Kim had a good, substantial discussion, but did not indicate any breakthroughs were made. He said the U.S. would not be satisfied with anything less than a "complete and correct declaration" of North Korea's nuclear pursuits.

Hill's next scheduled stop is South Korea for consultations with officials here. South Korea's Unification Ministry announced its own effort to bolster the six-nation process Tuesday, saying Seoul would soon ship nearly 3,000 tons of steel to the North, as it committed to do in the talks.

Ambassador Mitchell Reiss, formerly a senior State Department policy planner, visited Seoul this week as part of a panel to make security recommendations for Northeast Asia. He says the U.S. and its partners should continue to be patient, because they are negotiating from a position of strength.

"If the leadership in Pyongyang decides that it cannot abandon its nuclear weapons program, then we should be equally confident that we can continue to contain and deter them," said Reiss. "We don't have to bribe them in advance to try to bring about good behavior."

The diplomatic pressure for a breakthrough in the nuclear process is expected to mount next week, when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives in the region. It remains unclear whether Rice will attend a highly symbolic performance of the New York Philharmonic next week in Pyongyang. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is expected to attend.

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