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China takes lead on N Korea draft

US researcher looking at euqipment in Yongbyon ( Feb 2008)
Discussions are focusing on how to verify North Korean disarmament.

China is drafting a paper to outline how to verify what progress North Korea is making towards nuclear disarmament.

The announcement was made at talks in Beijing which aim to agree a method of inspecting North Korea's nuclear sites.

The US envoy at the talks said it was premature to determine whether the document would open the way to a deal.

Pyongyang agreed to end its nuclear activities in return for aid last year, but progress in implementing the deal has been sporadic.

Earlier preparatory talks failed to resolve a dispute over North Korea's refusal to allow inspectors to remove samples of nuclear material.

Representatives from several nations involved in the discussions have played down the prospect of a breakthrough ahead of the talks in Beijing.

And many analysts say Pyongyang is unlikely to strike a deal ahead of US President-elect Barack Obama taking office in January.

Dispute with Japan

The six-party talks involve North and South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States.

Christopher Hill in Singapore (4 Dec 2008)
Christopher Hill acknowledges this new round of talks will be difficult
On Saturday North Korea said it would not recognise Japan as a member of the talks at all, following Japan's refusal to provide aid to North Korea until a dispute with Pyongyang over North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s is resolved.

In 2002, North Korea acknowledged kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens and allowed five to return home, saying that the remaining eight had died.

But Japan is demanding proof of the deaths and an inquiry into other suspected kidnapping cases.

Row with the US

In October, the US removed the North from a terrorism blacklist as agreed under the 2007 deal.

In return, North Korea agreed to provide full access to its nuclear programme.

But the two sides now differ on what exactly was agreed under the terms of the deal.

North Korea insists it never said samples of atomic material could be taken away for examination, but the US asserts that the North did consent to the procedure.

Speaking ahead of the talks, US envoy Christopher Hill said there was no reason for North Korea to reject sampling and that it was important for Pyongyang to talk to Tokyo.

But he acknowledged that negotiations would be difficult.



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