SEOUL, South Korea — The chief American negotiator for North Korea arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday to try to keep the North from reactivating its nuclear weapons program, while a news report said Pyongyang may have been restoring a test site.
The negotiator, Christopher R. Hill, the United States assistant secretary of state, arrived in the North Korean capital after traveling from Seoul and passing through the heavily fortified border between South and North. His trip is seen as the Bush administration’s last attempt to salvage a nuclear disarmament deal it had struck with Pyongyang after years of difficult negotiations.
In mid-August, North Korea stopped disabling its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang, and began reassembling it. It had warned the International Atomic Energy Agency that if no further agreement was reached by Wednesday, it would move “nuclear material” into a plant that can make weapons-grade plutonium out of spent nuclear fuel.
Also Wednesday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced that the two Koreas would hold military talks at a border village on Thursday.
The talks were proposed by North Korea, which has until now shunned official dialogue with the conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak, who took office in February.
There also was disturbing yet unconfirmed news Wednesday as the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that smoke had been seen rising recently around the underground nuclear test site at Punggye, in northeast North Korea.
North Korea was believed to be incinerating clothing and equipment used to restore the test site, Yonhap reported, quoting an unidentified government source. North Korea detonated a nuclear device in a tunnel there in October 2006.
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