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U.S. negotiator wants North Korean declaration in March

North Korean soldiers talk in front of the Military Armistice Commission conference room as a South Korean soldier (L) stands guard during Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's visit to the truce village of Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, about 55 km (34 miles) north of Seoul, November 2, 2007. REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The top U.S. negotiator with North Korea said on Thursday that he wants Pyongyang to submit a complete declaration of its nuclear activities by the end of March because further delays could slow the denuclearization process.

“It’s important that we try to get through this in March, because we’re kind of running out of time in calendar year ‘08,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said in remarks to Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute in New York.

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

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 programs by the end of last year.

“Everything we’ve asked them to do, they can certainly do. Moreover, everything we’ve asked them to do, they’ve already agreed to do,” Hill told reporters after his speech.

Hill, who has been Washington’s point man on North Korea, said he did not believe it would be impossible to work around problems with the declaration. But without a complete declaration this month and the U.S. presidential elections in November, Hill said it was important to finish the process with North Korea by the end of this year.

“What I’m worried about is getting enough time to finish the whole process because we don’t want partial denuclearization,” Hill said.

Reporting by Emily Chasan, editing by Philip Barbara