The main US nuclear envoy invited his North Korean counterpart to a one-on-one meeting in China amid a prolonged deadlock in arms negotiations, but the North didn't respond to the offer, South Korean officials said yesterday.
US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill sent a "message" to the North saying he could meet North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan during a trip to China last week, a Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing ministry policy. The official didn't offer any more details.
The unusual offer for direct talks came despite Washington's public insistence it won't meet directly with the North, but only speak to the country with other partners.
It also came amid concern that North Korea may be preparing to conduct a nuclear test, possibly aimed at nudging the US into making concessions.
Hill and Kim represent their respective countries at six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program.
South Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan also confirmed Hill made an offer for direct talks.
"I understand that Assistant Secretary Hill made such a gesture on his own initiative," Yu told a regular news briefing, explaining that Hill hoped to revive the six-party talks.
A South Korean official said on Tuesday that Washington is now moving to impose sanctions on the North under a UN resolution adopted after its missile tests in July. It was unclear if the North's rebuff of Hill's proposal was connected to the US push.
In other developments on the Korean Peninsula, thousands of riot police formed human barricades around a South Korean vllage yesterday as workers began bulldozing a site for the new US military headquarters.
A police helicopter hovered as five earthmovers, backed by 400 helmeted workers carrying plastic shields, rolled into four villages near an existing US camp near Pyeongtaek, 70km south of Seoul.
"Stop your illegal demolition work!" dozens of elderly residents chanted as about 15,000 riot police sealed off the village of about 130 houses.
Scuffles broke out when police dragged down about 20 anti-US activists who chained themselves to the rooftops of houses and unfolded a banner reading "No US troops."
At least 10 protesters were detained when police stopped about 300 activists from breaking through barricades on roads leading to the villages.
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