China has circulated a draft plan on steps North Korea could take to denuclearize following a new round of six-party talks on Thursday in Beijing.
US chief negotiator US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill says China's joint statement would include actions, not pledges, that Pyongyang would need to take in a matter of weeks.
Hill says the actions would start the process of implementing promises North Korea made at the September 2005 session of the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the US, Russia, China and Japan. At that session, Pyongyang agreed to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for diplomatic and economic incentives.
North Korea's envoy, Kim Kye Kwan, says the North is ready to discuss the initial steps of its nuclear disarmament. But, Kim also stresses North Korea will only consider making moves if the US gives up what he calls Washington's "hostile policy" towards Pyongyang.
In a meeting with US lawmakers today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was "cautiously optimistic" that the current round of talks could possibly begin the process of carrying out a September 2005 agreement.
After the September 2005 agreement, North Korea boycotted six-party nuclear talks for more than a year to protest U.S. financial sanctions. It returned to the negotiations aimed at ending the North's nuclear weapons program, late last year after conducting a nuclear test in October.
North Korea says Washington must lift financial sanctions against it before talks on its nuclear program can progress. But the US says the financial sanctions are separate from the six-party talks.
The North Koreans agreed to return to the six-party talks in December only after receiving a promise that the financial sanctions issue would be discussed. That round produced little progress.