US plans talks but no agreement with North Korea

North Korea and the US are planning to meet next week in Singapore for a new round of talks aimed at ending N. Korea's pursuit of nuclear activities. But the US warned there is little hope for a formal declaration.


A top US envoy will meet in Singapore Tuesday with his North Korean counterpart as part of negotiations to end the hardline communist state's nuclear weapons drive, US officials said Friday.

State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey played down chances of a breakthrough in the new round of talks between US negotiator Christopher Hill and North Korea's Kim Kye-Gwan, but hoped they would make progress.

"He does intend to have a meeting with Kim Kye-Gwan in Singapore," Casey told reporters, adding the meeting would be early next week. The State Department said later the meeting would be on Tuesday.

Hill and Kim will discuss "issues related to the declaration (on all nuclear activities), and the continued process of disablement as well as discussions about the next phase from there," Casey said.

But he lowered expectations of a breakthrough.

"Chris will not be coming home with a declaration in his briefcase or suitcase. This is part of a continuing process. Certainly we hope to make continued progress on it," he said.

"But I'm not led to the believe that there is any reason to suspect that this is a decisive point in those discussions," Casey said. "We do not anticipate there will be any final resolution of the issues at this meeting."

Hill, who has been touring Asia this week, said in Jakarta he may meet his North Korean counterpart soon, fueling speculation that an agreement is close.

The two envoys last met in the Swiss city of Geneva on March 12 and 13.

A 2007 deal, involving the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia, offers North Korea energy aid and major diplomatic and security benefits in return for full denuclearization.

Under the current phase it was to disable its main plutonium-producing plants and declare all nuclear activities by the end of 2007.

The North, which tested an atomic weapon in October 2006, says it submitted the declaration last November. But the United States says it has not accounted for a suspect uranium program or for alleged proliferation to Syria.

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