Sun, May 25, 2008 - Page 5 News List

US upbeat on North Korea

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US fueled hopes Friday that North Korea could hand over a full inventory of its atomic weapons programs as early as next week when its nuclear negotiator travels to Beijing and Moscow.

US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said negotiator Christopher Hill, who will leave tomorrow for Beijing, was open to meeting his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan during his trip to China and Russia.

“The usual rules apply [for such a meeting]. Nothing scheduled, but the North Koreans know he’s traveling and if they see an interest or desire to do so, they’ll arrange something,” Casey said.

Hill has previously met with Kim in Beijing. As chair of the six-party nuclear disarmament negotiations, China is tasked with receiving the inventory or declaration from North Korea.

A State Department official said on the condition of anonymity that North Korea’s mission at the UN in New York had been informed of Hill’s travel plans “in case they might be interested in having a meeting.” But he said he did not have “any more details at this point” when asked if North Korea replied to the message.

Anticipating Hill’s visit to Asia, one Asian diplomat said on Thursday that Pyongyang could hand the declaration as early as this week.

And Hill himself told reporters on Monday that “we’re getting to the point where the declaration is coming” even if he could not say whether it would be days or weeks.

He said consultations were all the more important with his counterparts in the six-party talks as the disarmament process quickens.

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