The top U.S. envoy to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program says he expects the negotiating process to quicken in the next few weeks. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill spoke late Monday after a three-way meeting in Washington with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The six-party process, under which North Korea is to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and other benefits, has been stalled since the end of last year over Pyongyang's failure to produce a required declaration of its nuclear program.
But Assistant Secretary Hill, speaking after the trilateral meeting here, says he foresees a "quickening pace" for the diplomacy in the next few weeks and that the North Korean statement may be close.
The process appeared to get a boost early last week when North Korea turned over more than 18,000 documents on its nuclear program to a visiting U.S. diplomat.
The documents are said to include operating logs from the reactor complex at Yongbyon that produced the plutonium for North Korea's small arsenal of nuclear weapons, one of which was used in a test explosion in 2006.
Hill said he briefed Japanese envoy Akitata Saiki and South Korean diplomat Kim Sook on the U.S. examination of documents, which he said is still at an early stage but has yielded a "great deal" of information about the plutonium project.
The U.S. envoy said he intends to go to Beijing and Moscow soon to tell his Chinese and Russian counterparts about the developments. And he said submission of a declaration to China, chair of the talks, would trigger a meeting of all six parties.
"Our thought is that as soon as the declaration is turned in, we would hope to have a six-party meeting very soon after that," said Christopher Hill. "And then after the declaration is turned in, based on what people read of the declaration, then we can all determine whether it's a declaration that has a basis for being verified and for being complete and correct."
North Korea last year shut down its Yongbyon reactor complex and is in the process of permanently disabling it in exchange for energy aid from the other parties.
Once the declaration is made and approved, Pyongyang would scrap the program including weapons and get various diplomatic benefits. The United States would remove North Korea from its list state sponsors of terrorism and lift related sanctions.
Ultimately, North Korea would have normal relations with both the United States and Japan and be part of new regional security arrangements.
Hill said he would not guess whether the North Korean declaration was a matter of days, or weeks, away but he said he expected it to cover all elements of the country's nuclear program.
The United States has insisted that Pyongyang account not only for its plutonium production, but also for a uranium enrichment project it is believed to have had, and for any nuclear proliferation activity it may have engaged in.
The U.S. envoy said he also briefed his Japanese and South Korean colleagues on the Bush administration decision last week to resume food aid to North Korea after a three-year suspension, though stressing it is not part of the six-party process.