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Negotiators Expect North Korea Nuclear Talks to Resume Soon

The North Korea nuclear talks stalled this week, but the chief U.S. envoy says he and his counterparts may be back at the table soon. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from the Chinese capital.

The last of the delegates to the North Korea nuclear talks left Beijing Friday. The talks were forced into early recess over North Korea's insistence that it get back nearly $25 million in frozen funds before it resumes talking.

Four days of sideline meetings were held, but there was no progress on the central topic: a timetable for steps towards North Korea's nuclear disarmament, in accordance with an agreement reached last month.

The North Koreans abruptly left the negotiations Thursday, and delegates from the other nations followed. Leaving for the airport on Friday, however, the chief U.S. negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said he would probably be back soon.

"We talked to the Chinese, of course, about as soon as we get this bank transfer done, we probably will put our heads together and decide whether we need to have another six-party meeting," he said."

He said that meeting could happen in the next week or two.

"I think that's quite possible, because there are a couple of things we want to get done," he said.

Hill and delegates from other nations expressed dismay that the North Koreans chose to hold up negotiations over the funds issue, and did not get to the substantive matter of setting up a timetable and details of North Korea's eventual nuclear disarmament.

The money - the subject of a now-concluded U.S. investigation into alleged North Korean money laundering and other crimes - has been cleared for transfer from a Macau bank where it had been frozen, to the North Koreans via an account in Beijing.

The transfer could take several more days as officials work out what they say are technicalities.

In Seoul, South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon expressed confidence that the funds transfer problem would be resolved fairly quickly.

Song says what happened in Beijing was not a policy matter or a structural problem, but a technical problem. He says the technical problem might be overcome as early as next week.

The delegates from China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas face a mid-April deadline to implement the terms of a February 13 preliminary accord.

The agreement calls for North Korea to shut down its main nuclear reactor and plutonium factory, in exchange for 50,000 tons of fuel oil, and diplomatic concessions.