The Washington Post

Top U.S. Nuclear Negotiator Traveling to North Korea

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SEOUL, June 21 — The chief U.S. nuclear envoy was making his first trip to North Korea on Thursday ahead of the expected resumption of talks on halting Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, the State Department said.

The surprise trip by Assistant Secretary of State Christophe­r R. Hill followed the resolution this week of a banking dispute that had held up progress toward disarma- ment for more than a year, and the announceme­nt that U.N. nuclear monitors would visit the communist nation next week.

The trip is Hill’s first to North Korea, as well as the first by a U.S. nuclear envoy since the latest crisis with the North over its nuclear developmen­t began in late 2002.

Hill was to visit the North Korean capital for consultati­ons Thursday and Friday “to move the process forward,” the State Department said in a statement.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, also told reporters in Tokyo that Hill would be visiting North Korea on Thursday. Shiozaki said Secretary of State Condoleezz­a Rice discussed the visit with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso by telephone.

Earlier, Hill told reporters that the United States hopes the next round of negotiatio­ns will take up matters other than inspection­s of the North’s Yongbyon reactor and the banking dispute.

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