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US, South Korean, and Japanese Envoys Meet to Discuss North Korea Nuclear Issue


Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear programs, will meet with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts Thursday in Tokyo.

The meeting is being held as optimism grows that Pyongyang will soon produce a long-overdue declaration of its nuclear programs.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday she expects the declaration to be handed over to China - host of the talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's atomic program.

Rice said Washington will respond by moving to take North Korea off its list of state sponsors of terrorism and by dropping related sanctions.

She did not cite reasons for her optimism.

North Korea was supposed to have issued the declaration at the end of last year as part of its agreement to dismantle its nuclear program, in exchange for energy aid.

South Korea urged Japan on Wednesday to provide aid to the isolated regime to maintain progress in the six-party talks.

Until now, Japan has refused to provide aid because of a stalemate over North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s to train its spies. Pyongyang has agreed to investigate the fate of those Japanese citizens who were seized.

After Thursday's talks in Tokyo, Christopher Hill will travel to China on Friday.

The six-nation talks involve the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan, and Russia.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.