Top U.S. nuclear envoy say North Korea talks could start mid-December

Tuesday, November 21st 2006, 6:31 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ Disarmament talks on North Korea's atomic program could resume in the middle of next month, the top U.S. nuclear negotiator said Tuesday during a quick trip to China.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill met with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, for more than five hours on Monday night and Tuesday.

``I believe that we will have the six-party talks probably in the middle of December,'' Hill told reporters before departing for Washington.

Surprise visits to Beijing by Hill and North Korea's senior nuclear negotiator, Kim Gye Gwan, last month led to an agreement to revive talks on North Korea's nuclear program. The negotiations known as the six-party talks, which had been suspended for a year, also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Hill said that he still planned to consult with the other parties on the talks.

North Korea agreed in September 2005 to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and aid. But two months later Pyongyang withdrew from further negotiations, angered by U.S. financial sanctions against a Macau-based bank suspected of laundering money for the North Koreans.

North Korea wants the financial sanctions to be a main item on the agenda for the resumed six-party talks. Washington has said only that it has agreed to discuss the sanctions as a side issue to the nuclear negotiations.