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Page last updated at 21:37 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 22:37 UK

US seeks to end N Korea deadlock

US researchers at the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Feb 2008
The North is disabling its main Yongbyon plant

Washington says it is easing demands on North Korea to try to resolve an impasse over a disarmament deal.

The US indicated the North's required declaration of its nuclear activities may not contain everything about past programmes and may not be made public.

But a top US adviser on the issue, Dennis Wilder, insisted that "no-one has let them off the hook".

The declaration is a key part of a deal, stalled since late 2007, to end Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

The agreement was sealed in February 2007 by six parties - the two Koreas, the US, Japan, Russia and China.

The issue will occupy much of the talks between US President George W Bush and visiting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Friday and Saturday.

'Complete collapse'

Mr Wilder admitted proliferation issues would be "handled in a different manner".

Saying there was still room for "caution and scepticism", US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "This is a diplomatic matter and not everything in diplomacy is public."

But Ms Rice insisted: "All along that process we're going to continue to... verify and continue to look at whether or not the North Koreans are meeting their obligations."

The North has begun to disable its main atomic plan, as part of the deal, but did not meet a deadline by the end of last year for giving a full account of its nuclear activities.

One of the North's key goals is to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The US administration is keen for the deal to be completed before President Bush leaves office in January next year.

The North may be allowed to provide less information about its alleged proliferation activities to countries such as Syria.

But the former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said the new approach was "a complete collapse".

"Condi has a one-word vocabulary in this negotiation and that's 'carrots'," he said. "The word 'sticks' has just fallen away."



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