Hill to work on date for N.Korea talks

Updated: 2007-01-22 07:43
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U.S. envoy Christopher Hill arrived in China on Sunday to work on a date for resuming six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear arms programmes, amid signs of optimism about the long-running negotiations.

Hill said he would brief China's chief negotiator, Wu Dawei, about talks he held last week in Berlin with North Korea's top six-party envoy.

"We're going to talk about my discussions in Berlin and I will ask him about his thoughts on when they could schedule the next round of six-party talks," Hill told reporters on arrival at Beijing airport.

China is host of the talks, which also group the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia, and which began in 2003 aimed at persuading Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear arms development.

The last round of negotiations in December ended inconclusively, but last week's three days of meetings in Berlin between Hill and North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-gwan have raised hopes for progress.

North Korea said through its official KCNA news agency on Friday only that it had reached a "certain agreement" with the United States in Berlin.

Kim held talks in Moscow on Sunday with Russia's chief negotiator, Alexander Losyukov, on prospects of solving the dispute, Russian news agencies reported.

Itar-Tass agency said they would also discuss a timeframe for a new round of six-party talks.

Hill flew to Beijing from Tokyo, where he expressed hope on Saturday that the next round could make progress.


The urgency of making headway has grown since the North defied international warnings in October and conducted its first nuclear test, triggering U.N. sanctions.

"I would say those meetings in Berlin were indeed useful. They were very concrete. We discussed some of the specific issues we would need to negotiate in the six-party talks," Hill said after meeting his Japanese counterpart, Kenichiro Sasae.

"We hope that this time we can make some real progress," Hill added.

Hill, who has in the past used trips to Beijing as a chance to meet Kim, said he had no plans to do so this time.

"I have no plans to meet Mr Kim Kye-gwan again. We had enough meetings in Berlin."

Hill said he would meet Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei before returning to Washington on Monday.

North Korea wants the United States to end a crackdown on its external financing that prompted Pyongyang to suspend its participation in the six-party talks for almost all of 2006.

The talks aim to implement a September 2005 deal, under which North Korea would abandon the nuclear option in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

Hill said in Tokyo that he had agreed in Berlin with Kim to resume the six-way discussions soon.

Before visiting Japan, Hill briefed officials in Seoul on his Berlin talks. He and South Korean envoy Chun Yung-woo said they hoped the next round of talks would open before the February 18 Lunar New Year.