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China to Propose Schedule for North Korean Nuclear Arms Dismantling

Negotiators meeting on North Korean nuclear disarmament in Beijing say so far, so good on implementing the first phase of a landmark February agreement. As VOA's Kurt Achin reports, China is now expected to present a timetable on the next steps Pyongyang should take to dismantle all its nuclear programs.

Going into meetings Thursday, chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said the remainder of this week's six-nation Beijing talks is likely to focus on a Chinese proposed nuclear disarmament timetable for North Korea.

"There is a consensus among the six [nations] as to the sort of target time frame for completing of these tasks," said Hill.

China is chairing the talks with negotiators from Japan, Russia, the United States, and the two Koreas.

The talks convened Wednesday after U.N. inspectors confirmed North Korea had shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear facility. It was the first crucial step under February's landmark deal for North Korea to end its nuclear aspirations in exchange for vital energy aid and diplomatic incentives.

The shutdown was originally scheduled to be completed by mid-April - but had been delayed due to a banking dispute that was only settled early this month. Hill says despite the delay, the six nations agree the February deal is still on track.

"Everyone feels that we did okay in the first phase, with the understanding that we missed just about every deadline, and that we don't want to do that anymore," said Hill. "So I guess we have to be careful about deadlines, but if you don't have deadlines, you'll never get stuff done, so we have to balance that."

The second, more ambitious phase requires North Korea to make a full declaration of all of its nuclear programs with the intent to disable them later. Hill says he is optimistic the second phase of disarmament could be completed this year, and says some of this week's discussions have been devoted to what should be included on the list.

The United States says North Korea violated previous international agreements by pursuing a secret uranium-based nuclear weapons program. Pyongyang has never publicly admitted that program's existence.

However, South Korea's senior delegate to the Beijing talks, Chun Yung-woo, says North Korea is showing a constructive attitude toward carrying the agreement forward.

Chun says North Korea is promising to declare "every single one" of its nuclear programs very soon.