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US Envoy Says Six-Party Talks Should Remain Focused on North Korean Disarmament

Multi-party talks on North Korea's nuclear activities are continuing in Beijing for a second day, with U.S. envoy Christopher Hill saying he hopes to gain a better idea of what Pyongyang's intentions are.

Anticipating what he said would be a "very long, very important day," U.S. envoy Christopher Hill sought to keep the talks from becoming sidetracked by what he considers extraneous issues.

One obstacle has been North Korea's insistence on its right to a civilian nuclear program. Mr. Hill said the talks should remain focused on finalizing a statement of common principles dealing with the basic reason for the talks, North Korea's nuclear weapons disarmament.

"I want to make sure that on the fundamental issues that confront us in this draft, that is, namely the denuclearization and the ridding of the Korean Peninsula of these terrible weapons - weapons, really, of mass destruction - that we can achieve agreement on that. When we do that we can look at some of these other questions," he said.

Talks involving China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia, and the United States resumed Tuesday, and no end date has been set.

In remarks Tuesday, Mr. Hill said he hoped there would be no backsliding, and that all sides could move quickly toward the next phase of negotiations. Several delegations including the Chinese hosts have said that would involve the statement of principles, which would serve as the basis for on-going talks.

The negotiations that got underway Tuesday are the continuation of an earlier round that recessed last month. All sides took time off to review their positions in the face of North Korea's insistence on having the right to engage in peaceful nuclear activities.

Pyongyang says it needs a nuclear program to relieve its severe energy shortage.

China, South Korea, and Russia, have said they agree in principle that Pyongyang eventually be allowed to have a nuclear program, if it complies with international norms and under international supervision.

However, the United States says all other parties involved in the negotiations agree that for the time being, North Korea should accept South Korea's offer to provide it with huge amounts of conventionally produced electricity. Mr. Hill has said that offer would fulfill all of North Korea's energy needs.

The reason the United States opposes the North's demands for a civilian nuclear program is, fundamentally, a lack of trust.

Speaking to The New York Times newspaper this week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the North Koreans were "cheating" by moving forward with a highly enriched uranium program after pledging to the United States in 1994 that they would not engage in nuclear weapons activities.

The top U.S. diplomat said that if North Korea were to "cheat again" this time, it would be doing so in the eyes of all members of the six-party process, and not just the United States.