The chief U.S. envoy to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, Christopher Hill, visits Beijing and Moscow next week to consult on efforts to move the stalled disarmament process forward. Officials say the assistant secretary of State may meet his North Korean counterpart in the Chinese capital. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Hill's mission to China and Russia, following his Washington meeting earlier this week with South Korean and Japanese envoys, reflects a quickening pace in the nuclear talks.
The six-party deal reached early last year - under which North Korea is to give up its nuclear program in return for aid and diplomatic benefits - has been stalled by Pyongyang's failure thus far to produce a declaration of its nuclear holdings and activities.
However, in what is seen here a show of good faith, North Korea earlier this month turned over to the United States thousands of papers documenting plutonium production at its now-shuttered Yongbyon reactor complex.
The North Korean declaration, which Hill indicated this week may be imminent, would open the way to implementation of the final phase of the accord - leading to normalized relations between North Korea and the United States and Japan, and new regional security arrangements.
State Department deputy spokesman, Tom Casey, said Hill, at this point, has only meetings with his Chinese and Russian counterparts scheduled in Beijing and Moscow.
But Hill has also met frequently in the Chinese capital with North Korean envoy Kim Kye-Gwan and Casey made clear he is ready to do so again:
"In terms of whether he's meeting with Kim Kye-Gwan or not, the usual rules apply," said Casey. "Nothing is scheduled. But the North Koreans know he's traveling. And if they see an interest or have a desire to do so, I'm sure they'll arrange something."
A senior official here told VOA U.S. experts are continuing to examine the more than 18,000 papers submitted by North Korea, and that so far there is nothing to suggest that they are not authentic.
The papers, some of them handwritten logs, document plutonium production at the Yongbyon reactor for a five-year period ending in 2007, when the facility was shut down in the first phase of the nuclear deal.
The official said the logs will be critical in determining the validity of the pending declaration, including North Korea's accounting of how much fissionable material was produced at Yongbyon.
In addition to declaring its plutonium stockpile, and the number of weapons produced, North Korea is also to account for the uranium enrichment project U.S. officials believe it conducted, and any proliferation activity it engaged in.
U.S. officials believe North Korea was helping the Damascus government build a nuclear facility in northern Syria that was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in September of last year.