Hill said of the meeting with Kim: “You can assume when you have six hours of conversations … that you can characterise them as useful.”
Asked when six-party talks might resume, he said: “We hope we can do this by the end of January, but we have to talk to the Chinese since they are the hosts in the process.”
The six party framework brings together Japan, China, the US, Russia along with North and South Korea.
The last round of talks, held in Beijing in late December made no progress towards persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme and broke up without an agreement on when to meet again.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on October 9 last year, sparking international condemnation and UN sanctions.
|The last round of six-party talks
ended in deadlock [AFP]
At the December talks, North Korea’s envoy reportedly insisted that the US lift financial restrictions against the country as a condition to talks on disarmament.
Several US officials said they believed the Bush administration was now inclined to find a solution to the year-long dispute over the accounts in Banco Delta Asia (BDA), which Washington has called a “willing pawn” in Pyongyang’s alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering activities.
But they stressed this would not affect UN sanctions and US laws and regulations that provide other authority for cracking down on Pyongyang’s finances and weapons trade.
North Korea has cited the frozen BDA accounts as a prime reason for stonewalling six-country talks on ending its nuclear programme.
The US side meanwhile has insisted that North Korea must provide details of all of its nuclear facilities and programmes, and accept inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In 2005 North Korea signed a statement agreeing to give up its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees from the other five states, before proceeding with the test.
In a separate development a European diplomat, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said intelligence reports indicated that Pyongyang appeared to be planning a second nuclear test.
The diplomat said there was speculation the test could be timed to fall either on the birthday of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s leader, on February 16, or his late father, Kim Il-sung, on April 15