Rice pushes N. Korea on nukes

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pushed North Korea on Wednesday to accept terms to verify the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program, as the two countries held cabinet-level talks for the first time in four years.

Rice told Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun that his nation must move quickly to prove it has told the truth about its past atomic activities if it wants to improve ties with the U.S. and North Korea's immediate neighbors and end its international isolation.

“We didn't get into specific timetables, but the spirit was good because people believe we have made progress,” she told reporters after the meeting on the sidelines of an Asian security forum in Singapore.

“There is also a sense of urgency about moving forward and a sense that we can't afford to have another hiatus,” Rice said of her talks with Pak and the foreign ministers of the other four nations involved in the effort – China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said Washington wants the verification plan put in place around Aug. 10. The actual process will take months to complete.

In a brief, one-on-one exchange, Rice reminded Pak of the importance the United States places on verification and also on North Korea resolving the issue of Japanese citizens it abducted in the 1980s, Hill told reporters after the 80-minute meeting.

Diplomats had expected Pak to present at least an initial response to the four-page proposed “verification protocol” that was given to North Korea this month after it delivered a declaration containing details of its nuclear program in June.

Rice said there had been a lot of discussion about the verification proposal, which calls for intrusive inspections, interviews with scientists and a role for the U.N. nuclear watchdog, but would not say if the North had moved beyond preliminary objections to some of elements.