A senior American envoy has prolonged his visit to North Korea, in an effort to keep Pyongyang from unraveling a major deal to get rid of its nuclear weapons. At the same time, military talks between North and South Korea have stalled and a South Korea media report quotes intelligence officials who say the North appears to be preparing a missile test. VOA Seoul Correspondent Kurt Achin reports.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Christopher Hill extended his stay in North Korea by at least a day Thursday - continuing negotiations involving a stalled nuclear deal.
Hill met with Kim Kye Kwan, his negotiating counterpart in six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons capabilities altogether. Last week, North Korea ejected international inspectors from the main nuclear facility it agreed to disable as part a deal reached in Beijing last year. It warned it would resume reprocessing activity before the end of this week.
Hill is trying to get the North to agree on verification steps to confirm a nuclear declaration Pyongyang made this year is accurate. Tuesday, a senior American official said North Korea may be enticed to submit a verification agreement to China, if the United States removes the North from a State Department list of nations accused of sponsoring terrorism.
North and South Korean military delegates met Thursday for an hour and a half in the border-straddling village, Panmunjeom, where an armistice was signed to pause the 1950's Korean war. A formal peace has never been declared.
North Korea's representative, Pak Rim Su, said the talks come at a significant time. He says the North-South relationship is in a very serious situation. He says the current discussions could "greatly effect" the bilateral relationship.
North Korea halted most contact with the South, earlier this year, when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made transfers of food and other aid contingent on the North's cooperation on the nuclear issue. The North's military has refused any cooperation on a probe into the July shooting of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier in a jointly managed resort zone.
South Korea's military envoy, Lee Sang-chul, agreed Thursday's contact is important. Lee points out the meeting is the first in eight months. He says the South has high expectations for the talks and hopes they are sincere and productive.
The talks North-South ended with no significant agreements.
Separately, South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo cites unnamed government officials as saying there are signs North Korea may be preparing a long-range missile test. The report described, in detail, apparent North Korean moves to renovate a missile testing site on its east coast. Two years ago, the North conducted an unsuccessful test at the site of a long-range missile hypothetically capable of reaching the continental United States.
South Korea will not confirm the missile-site report.