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Thursday, February 14, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

U.S. envoy snubbed by N. Korea's Kim Jong-Il

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill sought to put the best face on failing nuclear talks with North Korea, which has refused to provide a full and complete accounting of its past nuclear activities.

U.S. chief negotiator for six-party talks Christopher Hill, right, shakes hands with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun in Pyongyang.       AFP/KCNA via KNS
“We are continuing to work on that," Hill told a Senate hearing Feb. 6. "I don't want to make bets about a game that I'm playing in, but we have reason to believe that we can make progress. And while we do, we are not at all happy that we've missed our deadline, that is Dec. 31, [but] we believe it's worth continuing to work on this.”

Hill said he failed to present a letter from President Bush directly to North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Il and instead handed it to a Foreign Ministry official. “I asked if I could deliver this in person. I was told that this was not possible, and they directed me to the foreign minister. So I delivered it to the foreign minister prior to my departure,” he said.

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The failure was a major snub by North Korea, which refused to allow the special envoy to meet the head of state.

Following strict U.S. policy, Hill, said any U.S. de-listing of North Korea as a terrorist and enemy state “will depend, of course on the DPRK’s fulfillment of its second phase commitments on providing a complete and correct declaration, and disabling its nuclear facilities, as well as on the satisfaction of the legal requirements.”

In addition to its not giving details on its uranium enrichment, Hill said there is also a likely discrepancy in North Korean plutonium produced, as much as 20 kilograms, enough for five nuclear bombs.

Hill also said North Korea purchased centrifuges from Pakistan and planned to reverse engineer them.

“They purchased less than two dozen centrifuges. And the purpose would be to replicate them and to build some 2,000 or 3,000 centrifuges. So certainly, in order to get the basic design of the centrifuge, they had to get it from this A.Q. Khan network. So our very strong belief is that they were successful in getting that,” he said.

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