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NKorean nuclear envoy in Singapore for expected talks with US

Kim Kye-Gwan.
by Staff Writers
Singapore (AFP) Dec 2, 2008
North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator arrived in Singapore Tuesday night ahead of an expected meeting with his US counterpart to clear apparent hurdles in a deal over the North's nuclear weapons programmes.

Kim Kye-Gwan arrived in a black Mercedes-Benz shortly after 11:00 pm (1500 GMT) at the residence of North Korea's ambassador to Singapore. Japanese television cameramen surrounded the car but Kim made no comment.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing diplomatic sources, reported earlier from Beijing that Kim flew to Singapore from the Chinese capital, where he had travelled earlier from Pyongyang.

The US negotiator, Christopher Hill, said on a visit to Japan Tuesday that he would go to Singapore and meet Kim after further talks in Tokyo on Wednesday.

On his Japan stop, Hill was to meet again Wednesday with his Japanese counterpart Akitaka Saiki as well as South Korean nuclear envoy Kim Sook.

A US embassy spokesman in Singapore had no details of a meeting between Hill and Kim but said that the US negotiator will be holding consultations this week with his partners in the six-nation talks on communist North Korea's nuclear programme.

A man who answered the phone at North Korea's Singapore embassy said he had no information.

The State Department said Hill is also to consult with his counterparts from South Korea, Japan, China and Russia before all six delegates meet on Monday in Beijing to finalise the deal struck in October to check that Pyongyang is scrapping its nuclear weapons programmes.

"Obviously, there are some really tough issues we're going to take up in Beijing," Hill said in Tokyo.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the six-party heads of delegation meeting in Beijing is aimed at finalising a plan allowing for outside verification of the North's disarmament.

The United States struck North Korea from a terrorism blacklist on October 11 after saying that Pyongyang -- which tested an atomic weapon in October 2006 -- agreed to steps to verify disarmament and pledged to resume disabling its atomic plants following a months-long dispute.

The steps are to be codified into a "verification protocol" Rice wants signed in Beijing next Monday.

But North Korea disputes a US claim that it agreed to the removal of samples, saying that external verification of its nuclear inventory will involve only field visits, confirmation of documents and interviews with technicians.

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US and NKorea nuke negotiators may meet this week: Yonhap
Seoul (AFP) Dec 1, 2008
North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator will visit Singapore this week, apparently to meet his US counterpart before a new round of disarmament talks, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Monday.

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