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US, North Korean envoys meeting Tuesday in hopes of restarting nuclear talks
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    WASHINGTON — The United States said Friday that top U.S. and North Korean nuclear negotiators will meet next week to try to break a deadlock in disarmament talks over how the North will account for its nuclear past.
    Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill will hold the talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye Gwan, on Tuesday in Singapore, State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. Hill will then travel to Beijing to report on the talks. China, an ally of the communist North, has been the host of stalled six-nation disarmament talks.
    The North missed a Dec. 31 deadline to produce a nuclear inventory, and while other work to disable a nuclear reactor has continued, the delayed document has soured the atmosphere of talks meant to shutter the North’s nuclear weapons program and improve the poor nation’s standing in the world.
    Earlier Friday, Hill said the standoff has gone on long enough.
    ‘‘We don’t have a lot of time. We really need to move on,’’ Hill said in Jakarta, Indonesia.
    The main sticking point is a dispute over what the North is required to reveal about nuclear know-how or material it may have passed or sold to other nations. The North has successfully developed at least one nuclear program and tested a device before it began serious bargaining with the United States, Russia and Asian neighbors.
    The accounting is also supposed to address allegations that the North secretly worked to produce weapons-grade uranium, in addition to a nuclear plutonium program it has already revealed.
    Casey said that the U.S. does not anticipate a final resolution to the matter at the meeting. But he said it was an important step in moving the process forward.
    The U.S. does not expect Hill will ‘‘be coming home with a declaration in his briefcase,’’ Casey said. ‘‘Certainly we hope to make continued progress on it, but I am not led to believe that there is any reason to suspect that this is a decisive point in those discussions.’’
    Earlier, U.S. officials had said Hill would not see his North Korean counterparts unless the issue of the accounting, or declaration, of the North’s nuclear program was resolved.
    The meeting is a sign that the United States thinks it can strike a deal with the North to produce an acceptable declaration, and also that the North remains interested in the talks despite recent tension between North Korea and South Korea.
    North Korea test-fired a barrage of short-range missiles a week ago, in apparent response to the new South Korean government’s tougher stance on Pyongyang. The North also threatened to turn South Korea to ‘‘ashes’’ in a pre-emptive strike, responding to remarks by South Korea’s top military officer that Seoul could target suspected North Korean nuclear sites if there were signs of a pending atomic attack.
    South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, a conservative who took office last month, has said he would take a harder policy line on the North — a change from a decade of liberal Seoul governments that avoided confrontation to maintain a ‘‘sunshine policy’’ of engagement.
    Separately, the North had issued a stern rebuke to Washington over the nuclear impasse, warning the Americans’ attitude could ‘‘seriously’’ affect the continuing work to disable Pyongyang’s atomic facilities.
    North Korea has begun disabling its main nuclear facilities under an agreement with the other countries at the international arms talks: China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.
    Most of the tasks of disabling those facilities have been completed, with American experts working to ensure the plutonium-making facility would require at least a year to become operational again.
    The North says it has slowed down its work to take the reactor out of service because of the dispute over the declaration.
    Hill met with Kim in Geneva last month but they could not work out all the details for the North to produce the document.
    North Korea accuses the United States of failing to meet its commitments and claims it gave the U.S. its nuclear list in November. Washington says the list was incomplete.
    ———
    Associated Press Writer Foster Klug contributed to this report.

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