U.S. envoy in N. Korea for nuclear talks

Mr. Hill was to meet with North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan to discuss advancing the six-party process, the State Department said. Mr. Hill was to return to South Korea on Friday and then travel on to Japan on Saturday.

South Korea welcomed Mr. Hill’s visit as “efforts to build mutual trust” between the U.S. and the North and expressed hope that it would prompt concrete steps toward the North’s denuclearization.

China, which sponsors the six-party talks, said its foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, would visit the North on July 2 through 4.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said today, however, that a date for the next round of six-party talks has yet to be set.

Mr. Hill had said in Tokyo that he would like the next round to be held after July 4. He said in Seoul that he expected the Yongbyon reactor to shut down in a matter of weeks.

U.N. nuclear inspectors were expected to travel to North Korea on Tuesday to prepare for the first International Atomic Energy Agency inspection since the agency’s experts were expelled from the country in December 2002.

Under the deal reached in February with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States, North Korea pledged to shut down its Yongbyon reactor, its main processing facility, in exchange for energy and economic aid.

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