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US, China Discuss Next Round of Talks on N. Korea's Nuclear Programs

The chief U.S. negotiator on North Korea's nuclear programs has arrived in Beijing to discuss preparations for the next round of six-nation disarmament talks. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill arrived in Beijing Sunday hoping to set a date for the next round of talks with North Korea.

His visit to the host of the six-nation talks follows Hill's meetings a few days ago with North Korean officials in Berlin. Both sides agreed in Berlin to resume the talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs as soon as possible.

Speaking with reporters at the Beijing airport, Hill said he would meet Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei Sunday evening to try to hammer out a date for the next round of negotiations.

"We're going to talk about my discussions in Berlin, and I will ask him about his thoughts on when they could schedule the next round of six-party talks, because we would like to do that as soon as that is convenient for the Chinese government," Hill says.

Hill added the Chinese would have to discuss any possible date with the other parties in the talks before a final date could be announced.

The other nations in the talks are Japan, South Korea and Russia.

North Korea had boycotted the talks for more than a year after the U.S. sanctioned a Macau bank for allegedly helping North Korean money laundering.

North Korea demands that Washington lift the sanctions, but the U.S. says they are a criminal issue separate from negotiations on Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

North Korea returned to talks in December in Beijing after the U.S. agreed to discuss the sanctions issue separately. The December meeting produced no breakthrough on the nuclear issue.

Hill arrives in Beijing after going first to South Korea and then to Japan on Saturday to brief officials in those countries on his Berlin meeting. In Tokyo, he said North Korean officials told him they were ready to resume talks as soon as possible.

He indicated the talks could resume late this month or in early February.

The effort to end North Korea's nuclear programs took on new urgency last October after Pyongyang tested a nuclear explosive device.

The U.S. and its partners have promised North Korea aid and security guarantees in return for abandoning its nuclear ambitions.