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U.S. envoy on N. Korea nuclear issue cites progress

Bilateral talks reportedly result in agreement to identify ways to disable reactor.

August 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

beijing -- The chief U.S. nuclear envoy said Monday that he and his counterpart from North Korea had reached a limited agreement on the next steps toward the communist country's nuclear disarmament in a meeting to lay the groundwork for upcoming six-nation talks.

Christopher Hill said the two sides "have an agreement that we're going to try to identify types of disablement and how we can approach it." However, he said they had not reached any kind of agreement on the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear facilities.

Hill also said that he and the North Korean envoy, Kim Kye Gwan, had tentatively agreed to meet late this month to discuss the possibility of normalizing relations between their countries, something North Korea has been pressing for.

In February, North Korea pledged to make a full declaration of all its nuclear programs and disable them in exchange for energy assistance. It switched off its sole operating nuclear reactor in July as part of that agreement with the five other nations in the disarmament talks -- the U.S., Japan, China, South Korea and Russia.

"We had a discussion about the sequence of declaration and disablement," Hill said. "In particular, we discussed the question of what is being precisely declared and what is being disabled."

Hill described the meeting in Beijing as "very businesslike" and said it was aimed at smoothing the way for six-nation talks Thursday and Friday in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.

"I think it's going to be a very good meeting, a very serious meeting," Hill said.

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