The Bush administration's top official on North Korea is returning to the region later this week, just days after Pyongyang missed a deadline to file a complete declaration of its nuclear activities. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports under terms of an agreement reached with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, Pyongyang promised to file the declaration by the end of 2007.
The State Department will not say where Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill is going. But his agenda is clear: to do all he can to convince North Korea to file the overdue nuclear declaration.
In public, the Bush administration is using subtle diplomacy to make its case to Pyongyang, indicating a late declaration which is complete and accurate would be acceptable.
At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino acknowledged there is room for doubt the declaration will ever be filed.
"It is only appropriate that we would be skeptical," she said. "It is a very closed society that has had a secret program that has been ongoing."
But she made clear that Washington continues to hope for the best.
"We don't have any indication that they will not provide one," she said. "But they missed the deadline and we are waiting to hear from them."
Christopher Hill will not be the only senior U.S. diplomat working the issue in the days ahead. Perino told reporters Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte will travel to China later this month for regularly scheduled consultations, and the North Korean declaration will be on the agenda.
When asked if the United States expects no declaration before the Negroponte trip, Perino said the timing is up to Pyongyang. She said only that the United States hopes to have the declaration as soon as possible.
Perino also noted that U.S. experts are continuing to work with the North Koreans to help them disable their main nuclear complex. The job was supposed to be complete by the December 31 deadline, but has been delayed due to safety concerns raised by the United States.