U.S. diplomats meet North Korean on disarmament

Senior U.S. diplomats held substantive talks with a North Korean official about moving forward with the process of North Korea abandoning its nuclear programs, the State Department said on Friday, according to Reuters.

Chris Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Sung Kim, a senior U.S. envoy to North Korean disarmament talks, met separately on Thursday in New York with Ri Gun, the director general for North American affairs at North Korea's foreign ministry.

They discussed convening the next meeting of the nations monitoring North Korea's disarmament, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said. But said he did not know whether a date had been agreed.

"They, obviously, discussed that issue and we're waiting for the Chinese to announce the date since they are the basically the chair of the six-party talks," Wood told a news briefing in Washington.

Under a 2005 six-nation agreement, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for economic and diplomatic incentives. The agreement appeared in danger of collapse earlier this year when North Korea began to reverse the disablement of its Soviet-era nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.

The United States took North Korea off its terrorism blacklist in October after the two countries agreed on a series of measures to verify Pyongyang's nuclear program and Pyongyang resumed disabling the reactor.

But the verification steps still must be formally agreed by North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Russia, Japan and China -- the six nations that struck the 2005 deal.

Kim had morning talks on Thursday with Ri followed by a lunch and then another meeting. "And the talks were substantive, serious, and they focussed on, of course, how to move the six-party process forward," Wood said.

On Thursday evening, Hill dined with Ri and other North Korean officials who were hosted in New York by a private group; then Hill met Ri separately, Wood said.

The two men discussed various elements of the six-party process, including a verification protocol, energy aid to North Korea and the disablement of the North's nuclear facilities, Wood said.

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