( Reuters ) - China, host of six-party talks aimed at reining in North Korea's nuclear program, on Thursday described North Korea's failure to meet a deadline to account for its nuclear activities as a natural delay.
North Korea failed to meet a year-end deadline to make a full declaration of its nuclear programs under a disarmament-for-aid deal involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.
"The pace is faster in some areas and slower in some areas. This is natural," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference, urging all sides to fulfill their respective pledges.
"We believe the comprehensive implementation of actions will open broader prospects for the six-party talks."
The reclusive and impoverished North Korea has made progress towards disabling its Yongbyon nuclear complex. The disabling was not completed by December 31, but that was mostly due to technical reasons.
If North Korea meets its obligations, it will receive a huge injection of aid, mostly in the form of heavy fuel oil needed to run its ageing factories.
Washington has also pledged to take it off its terrorism blacklist, which could allow North Korea to tap into international finance.
Chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill is expected to tour Northeast Asia next week to push the deal forward which, in its next steps, will require North Korea to fully dismantle its nuclear complexes.Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu was due to meet the head of Kenya's electoral commission on Thursday. Ghanaian President John Kufuor was waiting to talk to Kibaki before deciding whether to visit Nairobi himself or send a team.
The Kenyan government and religious figures urged local leaders to preach unity to ethnically polarized communities.