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Diplomats Turn to Experts for Next Phase of N. Korea's Nuclear Disarmament

Washington's main envoy to Beijing talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program says this week's talks will end without setting a deadline for further action. Instead, diplomats will turn to experts during the next two months to help set up a framework for further talks. VOA's Kurt Achin has more from the Chinese capital.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill says negotiators from six nations will turn to expert "working groups" to help set a timetable for the next phase in ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

Hill is representing Washington at this week's Beijing talks, which also include North and South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan. The talks convened after U.N. nuclear inspectors confirmed this week North Korea had fulfilled the first phase of a six-nation agreement struck in February by shutting down its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon.

With more complex action required on the road ahead, Hill says experts will be needed to help chart a course.

"We need the experts to kind of look at this and give us kind of a menu of options, such that we can put it together in a February-style agreement that can sequence these next actions the way we sequenced the February actions," he said.

The February agreement calls for North Korea to declare all of its nuclear programs, as a first step toward disabling them. It rewards North Korea's cooperation with diplomatic incentives and energy aid.

Experts are expected to produce detailed recommendations on those issues by the end of August or early September. Only at that point do negotiators plan to discuss a timetable for next actions.

North Korea refused to meet a series of deadlines set by the February agreement over a banking dispute that was only resolved early this month. Hill says it is because of those delays that negotiators are now being more careful about setting specific deadlines.

"It is kind of a careful approach, given the fact that we have used dates before, [and] dates get missed, so I think that viewpoint prevailed," he added.

China is expected to release a statement outlining the plan for the next phase of the six-party process by Friday, which is also when this week's Beijing talks are scheduled to conclude.