US envoy advises NKorea to return to nuclear talks

A top U.S. envoy on Monday expressed frustration at North Korea's continued refusal to return to six-country nuclear talks, and said the North would not get a better deal by postponing negotiations.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top American delegate to the talks, said he would go to North Korea "this afternoon" if officials there would agree to resume nuclear talks.

Talks were last held in November, when negotiators made no progress toward implementing a September agreement in which the North agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

North Korea has refused to return to the negotiations unless the U.S. lifts financial restrictions it imposed on the North for alleged illegal activity such as currency counterfeiting.

"Why the DPRK is not coming to the talks is something we're going to have to ask them," Hill said, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"I believe that these talks, the implementation of this agreement, is very important to the DPRK, but it's not for me to tell them that. They need to come that conclusion on their own," he said.

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

"They are not going to get a better deal two years, three years from now," Hill said. "This is a proposal put together by six countries. The notion that somehow waiting around for two or three years is going to give them some benefit is something I find hard to understand."

Hill, on a regional tour, made the comments after giving a lecture on U.S. Asian policy at the National University of Singapore.

The U.S. says the North should return to the talks with no conditions, and raised pressure on the North over its poor human rights record, a move analysts say may be aimed at pushing it to resume the nuclear negotiations, reports the AP.

I.L.