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N Korea 'stands by nuclear deal'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, in a picture released in November 2007
Mr Kim (centre) said he would abide by the nuclear agreement

North Korea has not changed its mind about ending its nuclear programme, leader Kim Jong-il has told a visiting Chinese diplomat.

Disagreements over implementing the deal could be overcome, the reclusive leader told top official Wang Jiarui.

North Korea agreed last year to abandon its nuclear activities in return for aid.

But progress came to a halt after North Korea missed a year-end deadline to disclose all of its nuclear facilities.

Wang Jiarui, head of the Chinese Communist Party's international liaison department, visited Pyongyang on Wednesday to press Mr Kim on the nuclear issue.

"The DPRK (North Korea) side's stance of advancing the six-party talks and implementing the various agreements jointly reached has not changed," China's official Xinhua news agency quoted Mr Kim as saying.

"The difficulties that have currently arisen are temporary and can be surmounted," he added.

Mr Wang also delivered a message from Chinese President Hu Jintao, the contents of which were not disclosed.

Terrorism list

China is one of five countries involved in North Korea's nuclear disarmament process. The others are the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

In February 2007, North Korea promised to end all its nuclear activities in return for shipments of aid and diplomatic concessions.

It has closed its reactor at Yongbyong, but US officials say it has failed to comply with the second phase of the process - providing a complete accounting of all of its nuclear programmes.

North Korea, meanwhile, has linked the hold-up to slow provision of promised aid. It also wants to be removed from Washington's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

A senior US diplomat, Sung Kim, is due in Pyongyang later this week to discuss the nuclear deal.


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