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N.Korea vows to end nuclear arms programme

MANILA (Reuters) - North Korea’s foreign minister, promised on Sunday to abide by his country’s commitment to end its nuclear weapons programme, a Philippine diplomat said.

North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun applauds after signing a memorandum of cooperation between North Korea and the Philippines at the Philippine International Convention Center, the venue for the 40th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the 14th ASEAN Regional Forum in Manila July 29, 2007. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Pak Ui Chun, who took office in May, told Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme were progressing well but gave no details.

Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Claro Cristobal said he also gave no timetable for disabling the Yongbyon nuclear reactor at the heart of the dispute.

Pak’s visit is a rare overseas trip by a senior North Korean official. Late on Sunday the U.S. embassy announced that Christopher Hill, Washington’s point man on the nuclear dispute, would also be in the Philippine capital from Tuesday. It was not immediately known if he planned to meet Pak or his delegation.

Pak will stay in Manila to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum on Thursday. It is the biggest security meeting in the region and will bring together the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and 17 dialogue partners, including the United States, Japan and China.

Cristobal said Pak and Romulo discussed bilateral as well as regional and international issues, including developments on the Korean peninsula, which “did occupy a good amount of discussion between the two sides”.

“He said that his country was committed to the agreement signed in February to move forward the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Cristobal told reporters.

“Minister Pak did a briefing to the Philippine side on developments in the six-party talks. Minister Pak said that the six-party talks had been producing good progress.”

The Philippines has offered to host a meeting of officials from the six parties -- the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas -- involved in the Korean nuclear talks on the sidelines of the regional security forum.

Despite Hill’s presence, such a meeting is unlikely to take place in the absence of U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice. Rice has said she needs to travel to the Middle East and is sending her deputy to Manila instead.

However, Pak has however promised to “cooperate in a manner that satisfies all the parties involved”, Cristobal said.

Pyongyang had shut down its Yongbyon reactor under a February agreement reached during the six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme.

The latest round of nuclear talks ended this month without any target date for disabling the facilities.

On Monday, Pak was to meet with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and tour business and cultural sites in Manila.