Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Senior U.S. official to visit DPRK this week

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill will visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea later this week, the State Department confirmed Monday.

Hill is due to arrive in Seoul, South Korea Tuesday. "Later in the week, he'll visit Pyongyang, before going to Beijing, where he'll meet with the Chinese vice foreign minister, Wu Dawei," State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood told a news briefing.

Hill is also scheduled to visit Tokyo with consultations with Japanese officials, Wood said.

Hill's scheduled trip to East Asia was designed "to work with our allies to bring North Korea into compliance with its obligations," the spokesman noted. "We're very concerned about some of the reversal of disablement activities that the North has been engaged in."

The Washington Post, which reported Hill's travel plan on Saturday, said the Bush administration is in a last-ditch effort to salvage a faltering accord to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in New York Friday that Washington is trying to persuade the DPRK to change its plan to reactivate Yongbyon reprocessing plant.

"We all are sending strong messages to the North Koreans that they should stop any reversals that they are carrying out Rice said after meeting with key officials from countries involved in the six-party talks.

The six-party talks, involving the United States, the DPRK, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, was designed for the settlement of nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula.

Hill visited the DPRK twice in 2007 after a long period in which U.S. officials were barred from substantive bilateral contacts with the Pyongyang officials.

The DPRK blew up on June 27 the cooling tower of its atomic reactor to demonstrate its commitment to nuclear disarmament, a day after handing over details of its atomic programs.

Under the 2007 pact, the DPRK pledged to disable its nuclear program in a step toward its eventual dismantlement in exchange for diplomatic concessions and energy aid. But the accord has been stalled due to disputes over the verification of a nuclear declaration between the DPRK and United States.

Source: Xinhua

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