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US and NKorea nuke negotiators may meet next week: Yonhap

File image: Christopher Hill
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Nov 27, 2008
The top US and North Korean nuclear negotiators are likely to meet next week to prepare for a new round of disarmament talks set for early December, Yonhap news agency said Thursday.

The agency, quoting a diplomatic source, said Christopher Hill and Kim Kye-Gwan may meet in Singapore around December 4.

South Korea's foreign ministry could not confirm the report but said the chief negotiators from South Korea, the US and Japan are scheduled to hold preparatory talks next week.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said the full six-party talks will resume on December 8 in Beijing but China has yet to announce a date. The negotiations also involve Russia.

The full meeting will try to secure a written agreement on ways to verify North Korea's disclosures about its nuclear programme.

"The focus on that meeting will be for the six parties to sign on to the verification protocol that has been initialed by the United States and North Korea on behalf of the parties," Rice said Wednesday in Washington.

"There is no other purpose for the meeting."

The US and North Korea differ on what was agreed when Hill made a trip to Pyongyang from October 1-3 to try to save a shaky February 2007 disarmament deal.

After an apparent agreement on verification procedures, the US announced it would drop the North from a terrorism blacklist and the North reversed plans to restart its plutonium-producing nuclear plants.

North Korea, however, insists it never agreed to the removal of samples of atomic material.

It says outside verification of its nuclear inventory delivered in June will involve only field visits, confirmation of documents and interviews with technicians.

The US State Department reiterated Monday that sampling is part of the deal which Hill reached, although it would not say whether there is a written agreement.

US officials say sampling is crucial to checking how much bomb-making plutonium the North produced in the past -- and how many bombs it could theoretically make from its stockpile.

The communist state tested an atomic weapon in October 2006 before agreeing to return to the six-party negotiations.

earlier related report
Rice: Verification protocol key for N Korean nuclear disarmament
US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said Wednesday she hopes North Korea will sign an agreement to verify its nuclear disarmament during the next six-party talks set to take place in China next month.

Rice previously indicated that the meeting would be held on December 8 in Beijing.

The talks will bring together Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, with his counterparts from the five other parties in the disarmament negotiations -- North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

"The focus on that meeting will be for the six parties to sign on to the verification protocol that has been initialed by the United States and North Korea on behalf of the parties," Rice told a press conference.

"The disabling has resumed, and it needs to continue to conclusion. But this verification protocol is now the key," Rice said.

"There is no other purpose for the meeting," she added. "And we have a document, we also have a number of assurances and a number of understandings that now will need to be codified by the six parties."

Securing a verification regime with the isolated country, which US President George W. Bush once branded as part of an "axis of evil," would represent a huge diplomatic success in the waning months of the Republican administration.

Washington removed North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11 following an agreement with the East Asian nation to verify its nuclear program.

The communist regime agreed to dismantle its nuclear installations and allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to return after having barred them from visiting nuclear facilities.

But Pyongyang has slowed down the dismantlement process, contesting the verification protocol in order to protest delays in the delivery of energy assistance it had been promised by its six-party talks partners.

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A Tactful Peace For The Korean Peninsula
Moscow (UPI) Nov 24, 2008
North Korea has hastened to state its readiness to mend relations with the United States, if the latter reciprocated. U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has also voiced his intention to negotiate with the North Korean leader after he is inaugurated.

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