US begins consultations ahead of N. Korea talks

The US plans to raise the issue of North Korea's alleged uranium enrichment program when six-nation talks on ridding Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons resume next week, the top US nuclear envoy said Saturday. US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill also said he did not expect a dispute over North Korean funds held in a Macau bank to be an issue in the talks that open Monday. Washington would also discuss benchmarks for progress in Pyongyang's de-nuclearization efforts, Hill said. North Korea would be rewarded for meeting those benchmarks with deliveries of heavy fuel oil agreed to under a landmark Feb. 13 agreement, he said. US allegations that North Korea has a uranium enrichment program brought on the nuclear crisis in 2002 that led the country to kick out UN inspectors and ultimately contributed to North Korea testing its first nuclear bomb last year. North Korea has never publicly acknowledged that it has such a program.