The United States and North Korea reportedly agreed in principle on the need to discuss a peace treaty in a four-nation setting with South Korea and China.
The mutual understanding was reached during U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth`s visit to Pyongyang last week, according to Yonhap News.
Bosworth and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju agreed that the four nations should start negotiating a peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice after the six-party talks on the North`s denuclearization resume, a South Korean government official was quoted as saying.
"North Korea proposed to discuss the peace regime under a four-nation negotiation framework instead of the U.S.-DPRK bilateral format, and the United States agreed."
This reconfirms the joint communique announced in October 2000 by the United States and North Korea after special envoy Jo Myong-rok met with then-U.S. President Bill Clinton in Washington.
"The two sides agreed there are a variety of available means, including Four Party talks, to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and formally end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with permanent peace arrangements," the 2000 joint communique reads.
A six-party agreement signed on Sept. 19, 2005 also notes that "the directly related parties will negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum."
Bosworth said at a press conference in Seoul upon returning from Pyongyang last Thursday that all six countries have acknowledged that the armistice will eventually have to be replaced by a peace treaty.
"So once we have been able to reconvene six-party talks and have begun to gain significant traction on the issue of denuclearization, I expect we will all be prepared to discuss the evolution or negotiation of a peace regime for the peninsula," he said.
Another understanding the two countries shared during Bosworth`s visit was to proceed with the North`s denuclearization based on the six-party agreement signed on Sept. 19, 2005.
Bosworth said the United States and North Korea have no plans for follow-up talks on resolving the nuclear stalemate.
"We have not talked about the possibility of another bilateral meeting," Bosworth told reporters in Beijing after briefing Chinese officials on his trip to Pyongyang.
Bosworth said North Korea agreed on the need to restart six-party talks, but did not set a date.
"How and when we resume the six-party talks remains to be resolved," he said.
In Tokyo, his next stop later Saturday, Bosworth told Japan`s foreign minister that North Korea showed a "forward-looking" stance to resuming dialogue with Tokyo.
Bosworth told Katsuya Okada that during his meetings in Pyongyang he raised Tokyo`s demand for the release of all Japanese citizens kidnapped by North Korean agents during the Cold War era, but that Pyongyang stopped short of providing proposals for conditions on resuming talks.
The U.S. special representative for North Korea policy met with Kang and top nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan last week for the first official talks between Washington and Pyongyang since Barack Obama took office in January.
By Kim So-hyun