WASHINGTON – Six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program are likely to resume in mid-December, a senior Bush administration official said Wednesday.
An announcement is expected after Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi confers with North Korean leaders, the official told The Associated Press.
Wang met last week in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (search). An initial round of six-party talks was held in August.
The United States wants to completely dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program, while China has called for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula (search).
Wang had discussed future steps with North Korean officials before coming to Washington.
In late August, China convened a groundbreaking meeting involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia. The talks ended inconclusively.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the North Korean nuclear weapons (search) program probably was farther along than Iran's. But he also said both problems were of equal significance.
Asked when the talks might be resumed, the official said he was predicting mid-December, perhaps the second week. Although no dates were set, diplomatic activity is moving in that direction, he said.
Last week, the United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union tentatively decided to suspend work at Kumho, a remote village on North Korea's northeast coast where they have been building two light-water reactors to generate badly needed electricity for the impoverished state.
The countries say that halting the $4.6 billion project is inevitable because North Korea has violated a 1994 agreement by secretly building nuclear weapons.
On Tuesday, North Korea (search) said it would seize equipment for the two power plants until the United States pays a penalty for its decision to stop construction.
North Korea renewed its claim that the United States had first violated the 1994 agreement, in which two power-generating reactors were promised in return for a freezing of the North's Soviet-designed reactors, suspected of being used for weapons development.