Page last updated at 08:32 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 09:32 UK

US envoy calls on N Korea to act

File image of US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill
Mr Hill said that he was very concerned that time was passing

A US envoy has urged North Korea to act fast to end deadlock over the nuclear deal, as South Korea told the communist state to tone down its rhetoric.

Speaking after talks in South Korea, US negotiator Christopher Hill said he was seeking action from Pyongyang "in the next few days".

South Korean officials, meanwhile, told Pyongyang that its "moves to raise tensions" were not helpful.

On Monday, North Korea called the South Korean president a traitor.

North Korea agreed in February 2007 to give up its nuclear weapons in return for aid, in a six-nation deal with the US, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

But the deal is currently stalled over Pyongyang's failure to provide a complete declaration of its nuclear activities by the end of last year.

Tense ties

The two sides are apart on two key issues - whether or not North Korea has a secret uranium enrichment programme and whether it has transferred nuclear technology overseas. Mr Hill said that he was "very concerned" that time was passing without movement.

Differences on the declaration had narrowed, he said, but whether they had been resolved would not be apparent until a final document was produced.

"So we'll have to see whether we can hear anything new from the DPRK (North Korea) on this, really in the next few days," he said.

Mr Hill's visit to Seoul comes with relations between the two Koreas increasingly tense.

Conservative President Lee Myung-bak, who took office in February, says he will link the huge quantities of aid Seoul gives to Pyongyang to progress on the nuclear issue and human rights.

This has angered North Korea. Last week it expelled South Korean managers from a joint economic zone and test-fired several short-range missiles off its west coast.

State-controlled media also hit out at Mr Lee in an article on Monday, calling him a pro-US traitor and warning that his stance could have "catastrophic consequences".

In a faxed statement to the North Korean military, the South Korean Defence Ministry asked Pyongyang to end such statements.

"Your intentional slander and fostering of tension do not help ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and we urge you to immediately stop such activities," the ministry said.

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