Envoys to North Korean disarmament talks began gathering Wednesday, and the chief US negotiator said he expected "hard bargaining" over new proposals to get the North to abandon its nuclear programs. The resumption of the six-nation talks, expected Thursday, follows a December meeting that ended in stalemate. But since then, signs have emerged of a greater willingness to compromise. Washington improved its offer for disarmament in exchange for security guarantees and energy assistance at a meeting in Berlin that North Korea described as positive. "The big question is whether the North Koreans are really ready to make some progress," US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters before leaving Tokyo for Beijing. "We did have some good signs in Berlin, but I think we also know that there is going to be some rather hard bargaining, so we'll see how we do."