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US Envoy Confident Stalled N. Korea Denuclearization Will be Resolved Soon

The U.S. negotiator to six-nation talks on disarming nuclear North Korea says he believes the current stalemate will be resolved before the next American president takes office. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill expressed confidence Saturday that North Korea's efforts to denuclearize would soon continue.

Pyongyang last week announced it had stopped dismantling its main reactor and threatened to re-start it if Washington did not remove it from its list of "state sponsors of terrorism."

Washington has said North Korea must first agree on terms for verifying its declared list of nuclear materials.

Hill says once North Korea agrees to a system based on international standards, the isolated country would immediately be removed from the list.

"The declaration without a protocol is really like just having one chopstick," he said. "You need two chopsticks if you're going to pick up anything."

Pyongyang's turnabout last week prompted speculation that it might be stalling until the new U.S. president was in power to see if it could get a better deal than the one already negotiated.

However, Hill told reporters he believes the set-back would be resolved before the next American president took office in January.

"We have to get this verification protocol done very soon," he said. "So, yes it can be. And, I think it will be."

He made the comments after holding weekend talks in Beijing with representatives from China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea, also known as the Republic of Korea, or ROK.

"We had a complete understanding with the ROK delegation, complete understanding with the Japanese," said Hill. "The Russian ambassador assured me we have no daylight between us. And, China is also very much working along the same lines."

The "state sponsor of terrorism" designation prevents North Korea from getting access to much-needed international loans for its feeble economy.

The sudden demand by North Korea to be removed from the list followed recent breakthroughs in cooperation.

Pyongyang in June submitted a list of its nuclear materials, which Hill called a "very good" list, and blew up part of its main reactor.

North Korea agreed last year to give up its nuclear materials in return for aid and political incentives.