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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China Predicts Pyongyang Will Resume 6-Party Talks

BEIJING -- A U.S. envoy said Monday that China could announce a date soon for a resumption of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program and that he saw potential for progress.

China hosts the talks, grouping the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia, which began in 2003 with the aim of persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arms ambitions. The last session in December broke up inconclusively.

"We hope that the Chinese government will be able to announce soon the start-up of the talks," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters before returning to Washington, adding that Beijing would have to consult other participating countries before setting a date.

The urgency of making headway in the talks has grown since reclusive North Korea defied international warnings last October and conducted its first nuclear test, triggering UN sanctions.

The December session appeared to be making progress on how to implement a September 2005 statement promising the impoverished North economic and political assurances in return for nuclear disarmament.

But those prospects unraveled, with Hill blaming Pyongyang's negotiators' insistent focus on U.S. financial restrictions and their lack of authority to negotiate on the nuclear deal.

A Russian diplomat said Monday that six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program could resume in the first half of February, Interfax reported.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said there was hope for progress in easing tension between Pyongyang and Washington that has hobbled the six-nation negotiations, Interfax reported.

Losyukov spoke a day after meeting with North Korea's chief nuclear envoy, who was returning home following talks with Hill in Berlin last week.