US says North Korea must "get out of nuclear business"

North Korea must get out of the nuclear business, the chief U.S. negotiator said Monday, adding he believed the North "was prepared to negotiate" at the coming arms talks in Beijing.

He refused to comment on news reports that Pyongyang is prepared to freeze a key nuclear reactor and accept inspectors in exchange for 500,000 tons of heavy oil and other conditions.

"For us, the question is that we must implement the full September statement. The DPRK (North Korea) must get out of the nuclear business entirely," Christopher Hill told reporters in Tokyo, referring to a 2005 pledge in which the North agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

"For months and months, we have talked about a statement that exists only on paper. What we're looking for in Beijing is to see if we can move that statement onto the ground," he said. "The purpose of the exercise is to stop the North Koreans from operating this terrible nuclear reactor."

Hill added he believed Pyongyang "would come prepared to negotiate" after more than a year of stalled talks, but refused to elaborate.

Hill, who arrived here from Seoul, was to meet with Japanese officials before leaving on Wednesday. The next round of talks is to start in Beijing on Thursday among delegates of the two Koreas, China, Japan, the U.S. and Russia.

Also Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo would not consider giving North Korea energy aid unless the communist also came clean on its past abduction of Japanese nationals.

Pyongyang claims it has returned all surviving victims who were kidnapped to train its spies in Japanese language and culture. But Tokyo believes more Japanese are held by the communist regime.

"Japan will not be offering anything unless North Korea acts sincerely on the abduction problem," Abe told reporters late Monday.

Abe and Hill were responding to reports that Pyongyang has said it could freeze the reactor at its nuclear complex in Yongbyon and accept international Atomic Energy Agency inspections in exchange for light-water reactors and oil until the reactors are completed, reports AP.

Japan's Asahi newspaper reported Sunday that North Korea plans to demand more than 500,000 tons of crude oil a year in exchange for shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allowing limited inspections. The report cited Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official who met chief North Korean arms negotiator Kim Kye Gwan and other senior officials in Pyongyang.

North Korea was promised two light-water reactors under a 1994 deal to freeze its nuclear program, along with an annual supply of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil until the reactors were built. The deal was scrapped in 2002 when the nuclear crisis re-emerged and North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors.

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