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US, North Korea nuclear envoys begin talks
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Chief nuclear negotiators of the United States and North Korea began talks in Geneva on Thursday with the aim of breaking the impasse over the Korean Peninsula's nuclear issue.

The closed-door talks are being held at the US mission to the United Nations Office in Geneva, with US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan representing each side.

The Geneva talks will focus on North Korea's delay in declaring the details of its nuclear program, which was agreed last October at the six-party talks which also included China, the Republic of Korea, Russia and Japan, according to US officials.

North Korea has missed an end-2007 deadline to provide a full declaration, but it attributes this to "other participating nations delaying the fulfillment of their commitments".

The commitments include providing energy and economic aid to North Korea and major diplomatic and security rewards particularly from the United States.

"This is part of the six-party process. They will be discussing ways in which to move that process forward," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said of the Geneva meeting Tuesday.

He expressed hope that Pyongyang would agree to provide a full declaration of all its nuclear activities, including the details on an alleged secret uranium enrichment program and suspected nuclear technology transfers to Syria.

"We believe that there is the possibility to succeed in completing this phase and then move on to a new phase in which we would start to talk about actually dismantling North Korean nuclear program," he said.

Ahead of the Geneva talks, US envoy Hill insisted on North Korea providing a "complete and correct" disclosure of its nuclear activities, but said the format of that can be flexible.

"We'll look at any and all ideas with the understanding that at the end of the day, we need a complete and correct declaration," Hill said Wednesday.

"How we get that, what the pieces of paper look like, I think we should be a little flexible on the format, but with the understanding that flexibility on format doesn't mean flexibility on getting a complete and correct declaration," he said.

The Geneva talks are scheduled for one day, but they can be prolonged to Friday if the two negotiators think it is necessary, according to the US officials.

(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2008)

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