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US Diplomat Accuses N. Korea of Boycotting Six Party Nuclear Talks


The U.S. representative to the six-nation talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis says Pyongyang is boycotting the process. Speaking at a U.S.-Korea conference Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Washington will not offer what he termed "favors" to entice North Korea to return.

The six party talks, which bring together the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, started in 2003, but are currently stalled.

There has been no forward movement since last September, when negotiators thought they had a breakthrough agreement. In return for completely freezing and dismantling its nuclear programs, North Korea would receive energy aid.

However, there has been no progress on that agreement, although chief U.S. negotiator, Chris Hill, said Washington still stands by and is ready to discuss the details of that deal.

"Every single word in that agreement is there for a reason," said Christopher Hill. "And we, I know my delegation is prepared to negotiate every single element of that and negotiate positively every single element."

At the same time, though, Hill expressed Washington's growing impatience with what he said was Pyongyang's unwillingness to return to the negotiating table. He also dismissed the idea that the United States should pursue negotiations with North Korea bilaterally.

"We are not prepared to just sit outside the six party process and allow North Korea to boycott the process and look for favors in order to bring them back," he said. "After all, they are the ones staying out of the process, a process which should be in their interest, as much as it is in the interest of the other participants."

North Korea has refused to return to the six party talks until U.S. financial sanctions against it are lifted. Millions of dollars of North Korean funds have been frozen at a bank in Macau, while investigators look into charges of counterfeiting and other illegal activities.

Hill rejected Pyongyang's argument, saying the U.S. investigation is not related to the six party talks. He added that he believes it is in North Korea's interest to put its concerns about the sanctions aside and continue the six party process.

"As I said, they should not mortgage their entire future because of $20 million in a Macau bank or mortgage their entire future because of a bilateral contact," noted Christopher Hill.

Hill said that if the North Koreans do return to the six party process, they will find him across the negotiating table in Beijing, "prepared and willing," and, in his words, "looking for any and every way to move forward."

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