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US Envoy Expects Progress in North Korea Denuclearization Talks

The U.S. chief negotiator to talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs says he expects progress when negotiators meet Thursday in northeast China. Envoys from six nations will hold two days of working group discussions aimed at getting North Korea to declare its nuclear programs and then dismantle them. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The U.S. negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, says his discussions with diplomats from China and North Korea were business-like and useful. He said they will pave the way for substantive working group talks on Thursday.

"We have every reason to believe we can achieve the objectives of it, which was to set out some of the technical tasks involved in having a good declaration and in particular disablement," he said.

Hill met in Beijing Tuesday with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei, and exchanged notes on talks they held separately with the North Korean envoy Kim Kye-Kwan earlier this week.

North Korea in February agreed to declare and dismantle its nuclear programs in exchange for energy aid, security guarantees, and promises of improved diplomatic relations.

Pyongyang completed the first step of that agreement in July when it shut down its main plutonium nuclear reactor, which it is believed to have used to make nuclear bombs, one of which it tested in October.

The next step, being discussed this week, is for North Korea to declare all its nuclear programs and materials and begin the process of dismantling them.

In working group talks that start Thursday, Hill and delegates from North and South Korea, China, Japan and Russia will try to decide on a schedule for that process and how it will be carried out.

A potential hurdle is that Washington says Pyongyang has secretly been running a uranium-based weapons program. North Korea has never publicly admitted such a program.

Hill says there have been "good discussions" on the uranium issue, but there is still no consensus on whether the program exists.

The U.S. envoy will meet with the South Korean and Japanese negotiators Wednesday in China's northeast Shenyang city, before the working group talks begin Thursday.

North Korea this week has said that it has suffered severe flooding and needs aid to help recovery and to bring in emergency food. Hill says he expects the U.S. government to look into the reports and see what can be done to help.