US official holds talks in China; North Korean envoy absent
( dpa ) - US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill on Saturday met Chinese officials to discuss how to kickstart the six-party process for ending North Korea's nuclear programme, but South Korean media said his North Korean counterpart had failed to arrive in Beijing as expected.
Speculation had mounted that he could meet North Korean chief negotiator Kim Kye Gwan in Beijing on Saturday, after Hill's sudden return to Beijing from Bangkok.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted unidentified diplomatic sources as saying a planned meeting between the two envoys did not take place because Kim did not arrive as expected on a flight from Pyongyang to Beijing on Saturday morning.
Hill said on arrival at Beijing's Capital Airport that he planned to fly to Vietnam as scheduled on Sunday.
His visit to Beijing came as US and Chinese officials were trying to move forward on six-party nuclear talks involving the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas.
In a move that could be linked to the six-party process, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang on Saturday, North Korean state media said.
Yonhap quoted the Korean Central News Agency as saying Kim visited the embassy at the request of the Chinese ambassador to North Korea.
In Beijing on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to implement a six-nation agreement to disable and later dismantle its nuclear weapons programme in return for energy aid and other concessions.
A key sticking point is North Korea's failure to meet the agreed deadline to disclose full details of its nuclear programmes by the end of last year.
China said Kim told visiting Chinese Communist Party officials in mid-January that North Korea would honour its commitments under the six-party agreement.