A senior United States envoy says he is hopeful progress will be made toward scrapping North Korea's nuclear arsenal during bilateral U.S.-North Korean talks over the weekend.  Lisa Schlein reports for VOA, the talks, which will take place in Geneva, will focus on normalizing relations as part of an international nuclear disarmament deal.

The bilateral meeting is in preparation of the six-party talks that are to resume later this month.   The members include the North Korea and South Korea, China, Russia, the United States and Japan.

The chief U.S. negotiator, assistant secretary of state, Christopher Hill, says those talks are to figure out the next steps needed to disable North Korea's nuclear facilities.  He says the six countries also will seek to obtain a full declaration of all nuclear programs and materials possessed by North Korea. 

Hill notes that phase one of these nuclear talks resulted in North Korea shutting down its nuclear facilities in Yongbong.   He says phase two of the talks will be a further step toward nuclear disarmament. 

"We are hopeful that we can come up with an implementation arrangement for, the disablement and declaration of facilities," he said.  "That we could by the end of this year have accomplished this phase two.  And, then in the opening of '08, we would begin, what I hope would be the final stage, which is the abandonment of the fissile material, that is the nuclear material already produced. The abandonment of weapons in which the fissile material is."  

If this is achieved, Hill says this is likely to lead to a peace conference on the Korean Peninsula that would result in a genuine peace agreement.  The ultimate aim, he says, is to achieve a permanent security system in Northeast Asia. 

Hill says there is no question North Korea must do away with its nuclear weapons.

"These are programs that are not helping the DPRK," he added.  "In fact, they are driving the DPRK into a deeper sense of isolation, which we are trying to reverse.  And, I hope other countries who have aspirations in this regard would understand that nuclear weapons are not a security solution and they certainly do not help anyone's future." 

During this weekend's talks, Hill says the two parties will discuss normalizing bilateral diplomatic relations and removing North Korea from the U.S. State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism.