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US, N Korea indecisive on next round of talks

US Assistant Secy of State Christopher Hill left China after failing to reach an agreement on restarting six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2006 16:46 IST

The United States Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill left China on Thursday after failing to reach an agreement with his North Korean counterpart on restarting six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

Hill left after two days of talks with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, during which he said presented ideas on how the regime -- which conducted its first nuclear test last month -- could disarm.

"These are ideas designed to make rapid progress," Hill told reporters at the airport without elaborating.

"We discussed them and they're taking them back to Pyongyang and we hope to hear from them soon."

He also said dates for the next round of six-nation discussions were raised but gave no details. The China-hosted talks involve the United States, North Korea, Japan, South Korea and Russia, which has not sent an envoy to Beijing for the informal talks.

"The purpose is that when we start the talks, that we really do make progress," Hill said. "The purpose of the six-party talks is not to talk, it's to achieve the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."

Hill and Kim also met with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei during the talks on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The heads of delegations from the three countries met bilaterally and trilaterally, China's Foreign Ministry said in a two-sentence statement posted on its website late on Wednesday.

They "frankly and deeply exchanged views on the issue of promoting the process of the six-party talks and improve mutual understanding," it said without elaborating.

"The three parties also agreed to strive for the progress of the talks." Japan's Kyodo News agency cited unidentified people at the talks as saying that Kim demanded that the US lift financial sanctions and freeze UN sanctions that were imposed after the North's October 9 nuclear test.

Hill said the issue of Washington-imposed sanctions was discussed but he made it clear that denuclearisation had to be addressed first.

"The best way for them to get out of sanctions is to get out of nuclear programs," he said. "Unless they denuclearise, nothing is going to be possible."

North Korea agreed in September 2005 to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid.

But Washington imposed financial sanctions against a Macau-based bank on suspicions it was laundering counterfeit money for the North Koreans.

Angered by the move, Pyongyang withdrew from the talks two months later. Kim said earlier this week that the timing of the next round of six-nation talks "depends on the United States."

Hill, who had been scheduled to fly to Seoul after Beijing, canceled the trip, said Susan Stevenson, spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Beijing. She did not give a reason.

In Tokyo, US Embassy spokesman Jeffrey Hill said the US envoy was scheduled to arrive in Japan on Thursday for further talks with Japan's representative, Kenichiro Sasae.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed South Korean Foreign Ministry official as saying Kim was to meet Chun Yung-woo, South Korea's main nuclear negotiator, on Thursday in Beijing.

First Published: Nov 30, 2006 16:46 IST