Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 13:30 UK

US envoy ends North Korea visit

Christopher Hill talks to journalists in the South Korean capital on 3 October 2008
Christopher Hill spent three days holding talks in Pyongyang

US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill has completed a visit to North Korea aimed at salvaging an international deal to end the country's nuclear programme.

Mr Hill described the talks in Pyongyang as "substantive", but gave no further details.

He is now in South Korea, where he will brief diplomats on the talks.

North Korea has recently back-tracked on an aid-for-disarmament deal, accusing the US of failing to meets its obligations.

Earlier this year, the communist state handed over documents setting out details of its nuclear programme and, in return, expected the US to remove it from its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The US, however, wants North Korea to agree to a comprehensive process for verifying that the information in the documents is correct.

In response, North Korea says it is taking initial steps to restart its plutonium reprocessing activities at its Yongbyon nuclear plant, which it had closed.

Verification row

Mr Hill spent three days in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, talking to counterpart Kim Kye-gwan. The visit was extended by a day in what US and South Korean officials said was an effort to reach a compromise.

Arriving in Seoul, he told journalists that he had engaged in "substantive, what turned out to be very substantive and very lengthy discussions about the issue of the verification protocol".

He would brief US officials and negotiators from other nations involved in the deal - South Korea, Japan, China and Russia - before releasing any more details of the talks, he said.

On Thursday, US state department spokesman Sean McCormack said Mr Hill had not offered any substantive changes to the proposed verification process.

Instead he had suggested ways to adjust the sequencing of steps North Korea would take - possibly including a role for China as a "repository for documents and information", he said.

Mr Hill flies to Beijing on Saturday to meet his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei.

North Korea agreed in February 2007 to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for economic aid and diplomatic concessions. But the deal has faced numerous delays.

This stand-off comes amid concern over the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

South Korean intelligence officials say the 66-year-old leader - who has not yet named a successor - is recovering after having a stroke in August.

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