UN envoy in North Korea to discuss nuclear talks
UN envoy Maurice Strong is in North Korea until Saturday to help support six-country talks on the international standoff over its nuclear programme, a UN spokesman said.

Low-level talks in Beijing last week showed few signs of progress to prepare for a third round of higher level negotiations due before the end of June.

Strong will meet government officials to discuss how UN Secretary General Kofi Annan could help with the talks, as well as touching on humanitarian and economic issues, spokesman Fred Eckhard said here on Tuesday.

A key sticking point is whether North Korea should give up its entire nuclear programme or just the military component.

The United States wants a clear-cut commitment for a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement" before any compensation can be considered.

Pyongyang has said it should be rewarded, politically and economically, for giving up its nuclear program, while the US government had ruled out any immediate pay-off.

The row over North Korea's nuclear programme has been deadlocked since October 2002, when Washington said the Stalinist state had broken a 1994 nuclear freeze by launching a secret weapons drive.

The six-way talks include China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea and the United States.