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US, South Korean Envoys Discuss Nuclear Talks

The U.S. and South Korean envoys to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program held talks in Washington late Monday on possible next steps in the disarmament process. A senior U.S. diplomat was in Pyongyang last week. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

The top U.S. envoy to the nuclear talks says the United States remains ready to continue working with North Korea on the disarmament deal, despite revelations last week that North Korea had apparently been helping build Syria a nuclear reactor.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill spoke to reporters in between sessions of Washington talks with veteran South Korean diplomat Kim Sook, who became the Seoul government's new chief envoy to the nuclear talks earlier this month.

Hill echoed earlier remarks by administration officials that the release of U.S. intelligence material on the North Korea-Syria connection need not scuttle the six-party accord, under which North Korea is to scrap its nuclear program in exchange for aid and diplomatic benefits.

The U.S. envoy said last week's intelligence briefings for members of Congress had been amply explained and that he had nothing to add on the subject. But he made clear the Bush administration remains willing to deal in good faith with North Korea on the nuclear accord provided Pyongyang does the same.

"We talked about all the commitments and I reiterated a position that Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice has taken on many occasions: that as the DPRK, the North Koreans, complete all of their requirements, all of their obligations, we will certainly complete all of ours," Christopher Hill said.

North Korea last year shut down its nuclear reactor complex at Yongbyon in return for energy aid from the other parties to the Chinese-sponsored talks.

But the process has stalled over a declaration of its nuclear programs, including proliferation activity, that Pyongyang was to have made by the end of last year.

Hill and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-Gwan, reportedly reached a tentative deal in Singapore earlier this month under which Pyongyang, rather than making a declarative statement about proliferation, would acknowledge U.S. concerns about it.

The reported arrangement has drawn domestic criticism from some U.S. conservatives, and Hill stressed under questioning here that there is no final resolution of the declaration issue.

"We are putting together a lot of different elements," he said. "And for this declaration phase, nothing's agreed unless everything's agreed. And we're working very hard to assemble all the elements, and that's why we're having these consulations with our ROK [South Korean] friends."

Hill said he introduced the new South Korean envoy to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and that they had discussed last week's three-day visit to North Korea by the State Department's director of Korean affairs Sung Kim, which focused on the declaration issue.