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February 28, 2007 -- The U.S. State Department today announced that U.S. and North Korean officials will meet next week in New York in a step toward normalizing diplomatic relations.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan are due to meet on March 5-6 for their first follow-up meeting since a February 13 agreement reached in Beijing after days of six-nation talks.
Under that agreement, Pyongyang is required to shut down its main nuclear reactor and eventually dismantle its nuclear program in return for fuel aid.
The White House has described the deal as an "important first step" toward Pyongyang's denuclearization.
At the State Department, however, spokesman Sean McCormack played down expectations for next week's talks. "A big part of the meeting is just going to be organizational issues -- how is this working group going to meet, what are the modalities of it.," he said. "Don't expect anybody to come out the front door on March 6 waving a piece of paper with breakthrough agreements, that's just not the kind of meeting that this is going to be."
South Korea, the United States, China, Russia, and Japan have held nearly four years of negotiations with North Korea aimed at persuading it to end its nuclear-weapons program.
(AFP, AP, Reuters)