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. US envoy leaves Beijing concerned over possible North Korean nuclear test
BEIJING (AFP) Apr 27, 2005
US envoy Christopher Hill Wednesday expressed concerns of a possible North Korean atomic test and cast doubt over the resumption of six-party talks on the simmering nuclear issue.

"The future of talks is very much uncertain at this point," the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific told reporters as he left his hotel here en route to Tokyo.

"I think it is clear we have a problem here.

"We continue to have a North Korean regime that is very ambivalent about whether it wants to negotiate a settlement."

Hill held talks with Chinese Vice Foreign Ministers Dai Bingguo, Yang Jiechi and Wu Dawei and would hold further talks in Tokyo and Seoul, US and Chinese officials said.

When asked whether or not he felt North Korea was preparing a nuclear weapons test, Hill said that the United States was concerned.

"One has to be concerned if any country announces it is entering the group of nuclear nations," he said.

"One certainly has to be concerned about what they might do to demonstrate that. I think we are very concerned about that and we have to think very hard about that."

Three rounds of talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programs that also include the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea have been held but the process stalled nearly a year ago.

Pyongyang has cited alleged US intentions to topple its government as its primary reason for pulling out of the talks and on February 10 announced that it possesses nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, North Korea said it had shut down its nuclear power plant at Yongbyon and was preparing to reprocess the plant's spent fuel, a move that could result in the production of enough plutonium to build up to six more nuclear bombs.

Hill's comments came as South Korean presidential advisor on security, Kwon Jin-Ho, Wednesday said there was no sign of North Korea planning to test a nuclear weapon.

"There have been no activities in the North that are considered as unusual," Kwon was quoted as telling Yonhap news agency.

Hill, who met with South Korea's top diplomats in Seoul on Monday, returns to Seoul on April 29 after his consultations in Tokyo, US officials here said.

A US diplomat told AFP Washington still considered the multilateral process to be the way forward.

"The six-party talks continue to offer the best means to address the North Korean nuclear issue and to end North Korean's international isolation," the diplomat said.

"If it becomes clear that North Korea will not come back to the talks, we would have to consult with our partners and consider the next steps, and of course, pursuing the issue in the UN Security Council is one possibility.

"We have asked China and others to use their influence to bring North Korea back to the table and to avoid any provocative measures. We remain prepared to hold the talks without preconditions," the diplomat said.

China, meanwhile, welcomed Hill's visit but urged all parties involved to maintain patience and flexibility in attempts to bring North Korea back to the table.

"Our wish is that all relevant parties can resume the talks soon and do more to contribute to peace and stability on the North Korean peninsula," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday.

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