Washington strongly supports Seoul’s strategy on resuming dialogue with Pyongyang and China shares such position, a visiting U.S. diplomat on East Asian affairs said Friday, promising continued patience in the prolonged deadlock on denuclearizing North Korea.
Despite the few differences they have, the U.S., South Korea and China all note the necessity of seeing improved inter-Korean ties before multinational talks can move forward, Kurt Campbell, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told reporters here.
“We all agree that there has to be improvement between the North and the South,” said Campbell after meeting South Korean officials including Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan.
Washington believes that the essential approach that South Korea has laid out is “the right one,” Campbell said. “We would like to see a resumption of talks, but we also believe that the South Korean approach will bear fruit.”
“I think China wants to take efforts to help support that process,” he said.
Minister Kim will be flying to Washington on June 24 under the invitation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for “intense consultations” over the “joint strategy on North Korea and other matters in Northeast Asia,” the senior U.S. diplomat added.
Campbell was in Beijing and Tokyo before arriving in Seoul, discussing pending issues related to North Korea as the communist state has warned of military action against South Korea and suspension of all communications.
Pyongyang last week disclosed details of a secret meeting with South Korea, claiming senior Seoul officials suggested summits, offered it money and begged for an apologetic gesture for last year’s deadly North Korean attacks. The Seoul government has admitted meeting North Korean officials in secret, but denies making such proposals.
Analysts have said North Korea may no longer try to engage the South and seek one-on-one talks with the U.S. upon its changed stance, a move that could leave Seoul out in the cold.
Seoul has been demanding an apology from the North for two attacks last year that killed 50 South Koreans, a sticking point in Pyongyang’s desperate move to resume aid-for-denuclearization talks with regional powers including the U.S.
Beijing also appeared surprised by Pyongyang’s revelations about Seoul’s proposal, Campbell said.
“Kim Jong-il, as you know, had recently been in China and I don’t think North Koreans gave any indication that they were about to so abruptly break off contact with South Korea,” he said. “I think all of our Chinese interlocutors indicated they had no knowledge in advance that such steps were being contemplated.”
China, host of the six-nation talks on North Korea’s denuclearization, was first to suggest the strategy of the two Koreas holding nuclear talks as the first step in resuming full-scale dialogue. By making its revelations last week, Pyongyang has made clear it will not take up the advice, experts say.
Washington has not finished assessing the food conditions in the North and remains undecided over when to resume assistance, Campbell also said during his brief meeting with reporters.
“No decision has been taken,” he said. “And we will coordinate closely in advance with South Korea as we go forward.”
South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac met with Russia’s deputy nuclear negotiator Grigory Logvinov and Campbell in Seoul on Friday shortly after arriving home from Beijing.
Wi echoed Campbell’s remarks saying his counterparts in China had “heartedly agreed” Korean talks are critical in resolving regional tensions.
“Details may differ, but we are all pointing at one direction,” he said.
By Shin Hae-in (email@example.com