Source AP ©

US envoy to visit Beijing

To discuss the stalled negotiations with China the U.S. envoy to talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs will visit Beijing this week, Foreign Ministry of China announced Tuesday.

Christopher Hill, also assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, was to arrive in Beijing on Wednesday, said ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular press briefing.

Hill was expected to discuss China-U.S. relations and the international talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programs, Jiang said.

Hill, who was on a tour of Southeast Asia, said he would visit Beijing after Jakarta and would be "meeting with Chinese counterparts to discuss our next steps." He spoke to reporters in the Indonesian capital after meeting lawmakers and government leaders but did not give any more details.

The six-nation talks have stalled since February over a financial dispute involving North Korean funds frozen in a Macau bank.

Susan Stevenson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, confirmed the visit but could not immediately give details.

North Korea pledged in a February agreement to shut down its nuclear reactor in exchange for energy aid, but has not done so yet, demanding it first receives its funds held in a Macau bank accused by the U.S. of aiding the North in money laundering and counterfeiting.

The U.S. helped unfreeze the US$25 million (EUR18.6 million) in North Korean money at Banco Delta Asia, but the money's transfer has been delayed because foreign banks are unwilling to touch the funds, delaying the North's implementation of the nuclear accord.

North Korea has made the resolution of the banking row an absolute precondition for nuclear disarmament. The hardline regime boycotted international nuclear talks for more than a year over the issue, during which it conducted its first-ever nuclear test in October.

The nuclear talks involve China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the U.S.