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US hopes for progress during one-on-one nuclear talks with North Koreans

US hopes for progress during one-on-one nuclear talks with North Koreans

The United States hopes its weekend talks with North Korea will make advances toward cracking the main obstacles that stand in the way of ending the country's nuclear weapons program for good, the top U.S. negotiator said.
"This nuclear issue is a tough one," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters Friday after his arrival from Washington for talks Saturday and Sunday with North Korea's chief negotiator, Kim Gye Gwan.
U.S. President George W. Bush said Thursday it is possible that North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons program before he leaves office. He said the United States, China, South Korea, Russia and Japan are making progress in their goal of achieving a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula, but he expressed frustration with the slow pace of the process.
Hill said he would try during the weekend talks to resolve some of the U.S.-North Korean differences so that the overall "six-party talks" can wrap up two key issues by the end of the year: securing North Korea's agreement to declare all its nuclear activities and disabling the equipment used to make nuclear weapons.
"These programs are not helping the DPRK," he said, using the initials of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "In fact, they're driving the DPRK into a deeper sense of isolation, which we're trying to reverse."
He said he also expected to urge North Korea to resolve its dispute with Japan over abductions of Japanese civilians as a crucial condition before Washington can accept North Korea's demand that it be removed from a U.S. list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorists.
"This is an issue that needs to be resolved," Hill said. "It's certainly been an impediment here, but I hope that it can be addressed."
Hill said on Wednesday in Washington that the United States will make sure Japan, as a close ally, is satisfied before removing North Korea from a U.S. terrorism list.
Japan is refusing to provide North Korea with energy and economic aid until the issue of the abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s by North Korean agents is resolved.
The meeting in Geneva is part of a flurry of "working group" sessions called for in a six-nation February accord in which North Korea agreed to disable its plutonium-producing nuclear reactor and declare and eventually dismantle all its nuclear activities. In exchange, the economically struggling North is to receive oil and other aid. The U.S., as part of the agreement, promised to begin the process of removing the country from the terrorism list.
The North Korean mission to the U.N. said the delegation had arrived in Geneva but declined to comment.
Another point of disagreement has been over allegations that North Korea has a second, undeclared nuclear weapons program using enriched uranium. North Korea said recently it was willing to discuss the issue, although it did not acknowledge having such a program.
"We need to make progress on uranium enrichment," Hill said, adding that "any declaration of nuclear programs has to involve all nuclear programs."
Years of tension and deadlock over North Korea's nuclear program _ which peaked with the country's nuclear test last October _ have started to ease in recent months as the six-nation talks have made progress.
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Associated Press Writer Alexander G. Higgins contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-21 23:27 GMT+08:00