Representatives to talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program will try to resolve the standoff at six-nation talks, but the main U.S. envoy insisted that the key to a solution lies with Pyongyang.
"We know we are ready to sit down and negotiate and try to finish this thing. But the question is what the DPRK has done during that one month," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said in the South Korean capital on his way to the Beijing talks, referring to the North by the initials for its official name.
The latest round of nuclear talks broke off for a recess early last month after a record 13 days of negotiations where envoys failed to agree on a statement of principles laying a groundwork for dismantling the North's nuclear weapons programs.
Hill was meeting with top South Korean officials in Seoul before traveling to Beijing for the talks starting Tuesday.
The talks were to resume the last week of August, but the North demanded a two-week postponement - taking issue with annual joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, and Washington's appointment of a special envoy on human rights in North Korea.
The head Russian delegate, Alexander Alexeyev, called Monday for all sides to work toward reaching agreement on a joint document.
One key dispute has emerged over Pyongyang's demands for a civilian nuclear program - something Washington has strongly resisted, saying the communist state's past record prove it can't be trusted with any nuclear program.
The North "has had trouble keeping peaceful programs peaceful," Hill said in Washington.
Last week, the North reiterated that it was "unimaginable" to dismantle its nuclear power industry "without getting any proposal for compensating for the loss of nuclear energy."
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, allows countries following its provisions to get assistance with peaceful nuclear programs, and the North has said it could rejoin the treaty if the current standoff is resolved, the AP reports.
South Korean officials, including President Roh Moo-hyun, have said North Korea would be able to pursue peaceful nuclear activities when it dismantles all its nuclear weapons programs, returns to the NPT and complies fully with safeguards from the United Nation's nuclear watchdog.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea