The United States is ready to have another high-level meeting with North Korea to woo the North back to six-party talks on its denuclearization, the State Department said Thursday, according to Yonhap News.
Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, finished a three-day trip to Pyongyang earlier in the day without obtaining the North`s commitment to return to the six-party talks. The forum, involving the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas, has been deadlocked over international sanctions for North Korea`s nuclear and missile tests.
"Based on today`s meeting, we thought it was constructive, but we await, you know, more information from North Korea as to whether and how they will proceed to come back to the six-party process," said Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs. "Whether that means, you know, a phone call or another meeting, we`ll wait and see."
Crowley characterized the meeting as a "good start," although he said, "There`s still much work to be done."
Another official, asking anonymity, said, "The North Koreans have not said yes (to a resumption of the six-party talks). And whether the next step is a phone call that says, `Okay,` and `Set it up,` or `We need a next meeting,` we will be prepared for both of those possibilities."
The official was quite confident that the North will come back to the six-party talks eventually "because, otherwise, the alternative is we will continue to aggressively enforce sanctions through continued consultations with the other partners in the six-party process."
Bosworth said in Seoul that he met with North Korean officials, including Kang Sok-ju, first vice foreign minister in charge of nuclear issues, adding, "It remains to be seen when and how the DPRK will return to the six-party talks." DPRK stands for the North`s official name, the Democratic People`s Republic of Korea.
"This is something that will require further consultations among all six of us," he said.
The U.S. point man on North Korea, however, said the sides have "identified some common understandings on the need for, and the role of, the six-party talks and the importance of implementation of the 2005 joint statement."
In the lead-up to the first high-level talks since Obama`s inauguration in January, North Korean officials and media called for the establishment of a peace treaty, the lack of which they said has led to U.S. hostility toward North Korea, including U.N. sanctions.
Bosworth said that he discussed the issue in Pyongyang.
"So once we have been able to reconvene the six-party process and begin to gain significant traction on the issue of denuclearization, I would expect that we will all be prepared to discuss the evolution or the negotiation of a peace regime for the Korean peninsula," he said.
U.S. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, reconfirmed his pledge to seek denuclearization of North Korea and Iran.
"It`s also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system," Obama said while receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, according to a transcript released by the White House. "Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her part, told reporters that Bosworth`s meeting with the North Koreans was "quite positive."
"The bottom line is that these were exploratory talks, not negotiations," she said. "They were intended to do exactly what they did. The approach that our administration is taking is of strategic patience in close coordination with our six-party allies."
Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center, however, said he saw no progress.
"Based on Ambassador Bosworth`s report, I don`t see that any progress whatsoever was made, or that we know any more than before about North Korea`s intentions," Roy said. "The message I draw from this is a North Korean reiteration that they plan to keep their nukes and expect the USA to recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state, that they are interested in bilateral rather than multilateral talks, and that they want to talk about a peace treaty.
"The most positive tidbit from the meeting might be that Pyongyang has moderated its stance from the earlier position that they would `never` return to multilateral talks," he said. "But this is something they had already indicated before the Bosworth meeting."