The United States has said it expects North Korea to formally agree to let inspectors take samples from weapons-grade nuclear sites during a high-level international meeting next month in Beijing.
North Korea insists it never agreed to the removal of samples, saying that outside verification of its nuclear inventory will involve only field visits, confirmation of documents and interviews with technicians.
However, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters "it (sampling) is part of the agreement" which Washington reached with Pyongyang last month in exchange for striking North Korea from a terrorism blacklist.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the meeting would be held on December 8 in Beijing. The talks will bring together Christopher Hill, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, with his counterparts from the five other parties in the disarmament negotiations – the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan.
Why now? North Korea obviously feels it can win concessions from outgoing President Bush seeking a diplomatic legacy.