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Report: Top North Korean Official 'Hopeful' About Progress on Disarmament

North Korea's second highest-ranking leader says he has hopes that disagreements over North Korea's disarmament process can be overcome.

Kim Yong-Nam told Japan's Kyodo news agency Wednesday that North Korea is "two steps ahead" in the implementation of an international agreement to dismantle its nuclear facilities.

He said the United States is lagging behind, and he linked that to what he called the U.S. "domestic situation," which news agencies have interpreted as a reference to the November presidential election.

Both the White House and the U.S. State Department noted the comments today, saying they are a positive sign from North Korea. A State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, vowed that the United States will continue to push for progress in the six-nation talks aimed at shutting down North Korea's nuclear activities.

In recent weeks, however, North Korea has backpedaled on a pledge to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. Instead, it has taken steps towards restoring a disabled nuclear reactor. Pyongyang says Washington has not yet removed North Korea, as promised, from a list of states that sponsor terrorism.

Washington says North Korea first must agree to a protocol for verifying that the reactors are being disabled.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.