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U.S. Official Open to Talks With Pyongyang

July 21, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The senior U.S. envoy at stalled North Korean disarmament talks said Friday he would be agreeable to extended one-on-one sessions with North Korean negotiators but doubted that would deter Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Christopher Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said his goal would be North Korean disarmament. But the North Koreans, he told reporters, aspire to full relations with the United States ``while holding on to their weapons until we recognize them as a nuclear state.″

Hill said any direct talks he would hold with North Korea, as in the past, would be in the context of multiparty negotiations designed to halt Pyongyang’s weapons program.

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun as well as Hill are scheduled to attend the annual ASEAN Regional Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, next week. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and foreign ministers from other Asian countries are also expected to take part.

North Korea since last November has boycotted the six-nation negotiations on its nuclear program. Two weeks ago, Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles, an act of defiance seen as an attempt to put itself on top of the world’s agenda.

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