The State Department says the Bush administration is engaged in a careful study of North Korea's latest position on the six-party nuclear talks, as conveyed to a senior U.S. envoy late last week. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department another top U.S. diplomat is still in the region consulting other parties to the talks.
U.S. officials are refusing to comment on the substance of what Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill learned on a visit to Pyongyang that ended last Friday.
But they do say the Hill mission has triggered a high-level review of the North Korean position that included a White House discussion Tuesday between President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Chinese-sponsored six-party talks, aimed at getting Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear program, have been deadlocked over North Korea's failure to submit a verification plan for the declaration of its nuclear holdings it made in June.
Pyongyang says the United States reneged on a pledge to remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, but U.S. officials say de-listing is dependent on a verification regime.
Hill met several North Korean officials, including Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun and a senior army general in a visit spanning three days.
A South Korean newspaper considered pro-Pyongyang said earlier this week North Korea gave Hill a new proposal along with an ultimatum to walk away from the talks if it is not accepted.
At a news briefing Wednesday, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said he was not ready to provide any details but reiterated Hill's depiction of his visit as useful.
"We will give you our full assessment of what Chris heard and the results of his discussion as we saw it," he said. "I think you heard him, as well as the secretary, characterize the discussions as useful. We will see if, in fact, in the end they are productive in moving the process forward."
McCormack said Secretary Rice discussed the state of the talks by telephone with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, and that senior U.S. diplomat Sung Kim - Hill's deputy - is due back in Washington on Thursday, after consultations with parties in the region.
A senior official who spoke to reporters in Washington said the administration is being deliberate, thoughtful, and conscientious in its internal discussion of the talks.
Asked if the negotiations are in a do-or-die situation, the same official said the six-party talks will remain a useful mechanism regardless of whether they move forward right now.
North Korea announced last month it was taking steps to restore its partially disabled Yongbyon nuclear complex because of the negotiating impasse.
Spokesman McCormack said Pyongyang continues to move in the wrong direction with its activity at Yongbyon. He also said North Korea's reported test-firing of two short-range missiles into the Yellow Sea on Tuesday was neither advisable nor helpful in managing regional tensions.
But he said it was not a technical violation of a 2006 U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an end to North Korea's long-range ballistic-missile program.