Source AP ©

US negotiator to visit Asia earlier than planned in North Korea nuclear talks

The top U.S. negotiator in talks to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons is going to visit Japan and South Korea next week ahead of an expected early December resumption.

Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for east Asian affairs, will leave Tuesday for planned stops in Tokyo and Seoul with the expectation that he will continue to Beijing for a new round of six-nation discussions in the first week of next month about disarming North Korea's nuclear programs, the officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because neither Hill's travel plans nor the dates for the meeting in China have been announced.

Earlier Friday, Russia's chief nuclear negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, said China had circulated proposed dates of Dec. 6-8 to the other parties - the United States, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia - and Moscow had accepted it, according to the Interfax news agency.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency carried a similar report and said Seoul also had agreed to the idea. The South Korean Foreign Ministry would not confirm the reports.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the reports.

The last six-party talks were in Beijing in late September. The sides issued an agreement a few days later in which North Korea promised to disable its closed Yongbyon nuclear reactor by the end of this year in exchange for economic aid and political concessions.

At the next meeting, North Korea is expected to lay out elements of a draft declaration in which it is supposed to detail all of its nuclear programs.

U.S. nuclear experts have been in North Korea since early this month to disable the reactor, which produces plutonium for bombs, and two other important facilities at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

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