The senior U.S. delegate to multi-national talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea says the next round of negotiations are unlikely to be conclusive. The talks are expected to begin in the second week of November, just days before South Korea hosts a summit of Asian and Pacific leaders.
Arriving at Seoul's Incheon international airport, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill was cautiously optimistic about the next round of multi-national talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.
"You know, I think it is encouraging that people are prepared to come back, as scheduled, on time," said Mr. Hill.
Chinese state media say North Korean leader Kim Jong Il offered personal assurances to President Hu Jintao, who has just ended a visit to Pyongyang, that North Korea would return to the bargaining table next month.
The other parties to the talks, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Russia are offering North Korea security, political, and economic incentives to declare and dismantle all its nuclear programs.
Assistant Secretary Hill will consult Monday with South Korean negotiators before moving on to Japan. He says the upcoming fifth round of talks is unlikely to be the last, because time for discussion is short. South Korea is hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, or APEC, in the third week of November.
"We do not have a lot of time, and so you know, we will have to keep this thing going, either in subsequent rounds or extensions of this round," he added.
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is expected to use the APEC gathering as a chance to build international support for Seoul's diplomatic, engagement-oriented approach to the North Korean nuclear issue.
During the fourth round of six-party talks in September, North Korea signed a joint statement committing it in principle to dismantling its nuclear programs.
The other negotiating parties also agreed to discuss providing civilian nuclear facilities to the communist nation "at an appropriate time."
South Korea and the United States say the time will be appropriate only after Pyongyang has declared all its nuclear capabilities and allowed international inspectors access to the country. But a senior North Korean diplomat said Wednesday the North will not take either action until a civilian nuclear reactor has been delivered.