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US: Coming Six-Party Talks Will Be 'Very Tough'
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Top US negotiator at the six-party talks Christopher Hill said on Wednesday that the disarmament negotiations scheduled for next week will be "very tough."

Hill, who is also Assistant Secretary of State, said that there were no guarantees the process would achieve its goal of dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Noting "I'm not here to predict success or express optimism," Hill said that North Korea has indicated it is ready to "deal in specifics at the coming round."

Hill has held two rounds of preliminary talks with officials of North Korea since Pyongyang agreed to return to the negotiating table after carrying out their first test of a nuclear bomb on Oct. 9.

The six-party talks have remained stalled since North Korea walked out of the negotiations with the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia more than a year ago.

Washington has urged Pyongyang to take "concrete actions" in the forthcoming round of six-party talk. "It is our desire to make progress in terms of parties committing at this round to concrete actions and then quickly thereafter following through on these commitments," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday.

The six-party talks, involving North Korea, the United States., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, is due to resume in Beijing, China on Dec. 18 after its last session in November 2005.

North Korea agreed in principle to dismantle its nuclear weapons at the September 2005 round of talks but boycotted the meeting following US financial sanctions imposed on Pyongyang.

Washington has been pressing Pyongyang to halt the operations of its nuclear reactor in Yongbyon and accept inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency but the latter demands the former first lift its financial sanctions as a show of good faith.

(Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2006)

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