The United States has warned that internal politics in North Korea could scuttle a deal in which the hardline communist state would have to end its nuclear weapons drive.
Christopher Hill, the chief US envoy to the six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear arms pursuit, said Pyongyang had informed Washington on a number of occasions that it wanted to reach the deal before President George W Bush left office in January 2009.
"But the question is whether they are prepared to follow through," he said yesterday at a Washington forum of the Atlantic Council of the United States.
"North Korea is a country that has a very vertically oriented governing structure to be sure but this is on live TV, I think, so I have to be a little diplomatic about that but at the same time it is place for politics," Hill said, referring to the numerous broadcasting networks covering the event.
"And so I think it is fair to say that there are people in North Korea who really are not with the programme here, really rather continue to be producing this plutonium for whatever reason," he said.
Hill did not elaborate, but there have been unconfirmed reports in the past about hardline military factions in Pyongyang not keen on reaching a nuclear deal even though the China-led six-party talks were endorsed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.
Hill's comment on Tuesday came as North Korea refused to make a full declaration of its nuclear weapons programme and alleged proliferation activities as part of an aid-for-disarmament deal agreed to by the six parties the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia.