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NKorea envoy says to seek progress in nuclear row

Written by: Staff

TOKYO, Apr 8 (Reuters) North Korea's top negotiator to stalled six-way talks on Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme will hold talks with counterparts next week in an effort to put the process back on track, Kyodo news agency reported.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan arrived in Tokyo yesterday, where he will be joined next week by envoys from the other countries involved in the six-way talks, aimed at preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

''We have decided to have bilateral and multilateral contacts actively to make progress in the six-party talks,'' Kim told reporters in Tokyo, according to Kyodo.

Some analysts have billed the gathering as a de facto version of the six-party negotiations.

US chief negotiator Christopher Hill will arrive in Tokyo on Monday for the private forum, and South Korea's new envoy, Chun Yung-woo, will also be in the Japanese capital along with China's chief delegate, Wu Dawei.

Hill has no plans to meet the North Korean official but has not ruled out doing so, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

The six participants in the nuclear talks -- the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia -- agreed in principle in September that Pyongyang would dismantle its nuclear programmes in exchange for aid and improved diplomatic ties.

But the last session in November ended without progress.

North Korea has said it would be impossible to return to the talks while Washington is taking action against it for alleged counterfeiting, drug trafficking and money laundering.

North Korea has denied involvement in any illegal activities.

Korea experts said the gathering could set the stage for resuming the formal negotiations, but that it would be hard to narrow the gap between Washington and Pyongyang.

Reuters OM VP0735

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