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When negotiating with enigmatic, totalitarian North Korea, progress can be maddeningly hard to come by. That's why, when the on-again, off-again six-party talks restarted last week after a 13-month hiatus, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill warned reporters not to expect the impasse over North Korea's nuclear weapons program to be resolved soon. "I want to caution people not to think we are coming to the end of this," said Hill, who is the U.S. point man for the talks being held in Beijing.

For a world made uneasy by North Korea's claim that it possesses atomic...

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