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Hill stays in Beijing to work on North Korea issue

The top U.S. negotiator with North Korea stayed in Beijing for an extra day on Wednesday to work on reviving the stalled effort to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programmes, the U.S. State Department said.

North Korea committed to abandon all nuclear weapons and programmes in exchange for economic and diplomatic benefits under a 2005 multilateral deal.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and lead representative at the Six Party talks on North Korean nuclear issues Christopher Hill listens to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressing Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi in Beijing, February 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Adrian Bradshaw/Pool)

But the accord between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States has become bogged down by Pyongyang's failure to produce a declaration of its nuclear programmes by the end of last year.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill cancelled plans to accompany Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Tokyo as he wants to continue talks with the Chinese, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters who flew to Japan with Rice.

Rice and Chinese President Hu Jintao had a "good conversation" about the matter on Tuesday, McCormack said, and the secretary of state asked Hill to stay behind to keep "working on the six-party talks with the Chinese".

"We came with some ideas. They had some ideas," McCormack said, saying Hill's extended stay aimed to "see if we can tease out some of these ideas".

The spokesman said there was a good atmosphere in Rice's talks in Beijing, adding "we'll see if it leads somewhere".

McCormack said he did not know what ideas Hill would discuss in Beijing or whom he would meet.

The spokesman said Hill would extend his stay in China only for one day and then resume his planned travel in the region. He had no plans to meet North Korean officials in Beijing or to visit Pyongyang.

Rice flew to Tokyo for the final stop of a three-country tour of Northeast Asia that began in Seoul for Monday's inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

In Japan, she is expected to face official complaints over a U.S. Marine's alleged rape of a 14-year old girl this month on the island of Okinawa and is expected to apologise for the incident, one of a series of crimes blamed on U.S. troops in Japan.

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