A senior U.S. official on Friday called on North Korea to take steps toward denuclearization before restarting the long-dormant six-party talks on its weapons program which is a “driver of instability” in the region.
Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, downplayed the need for an informal meeting of officials and experts from the countries, which was recently proposed by China.
“It is crystal clear in the joint statement of 2005 that the goal of the six-party talks and the goal of diplomatic efforts here is the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Russel told reporters in Seoul.
He arrived in Seoul on Thursday for a three-day visit as part of his 10-day Asia tour.
|Daniel Russel, U.S. assistant secretary of state, answers questions from reporters in Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap News)|
His remarks reflected the still chilly mood around Washington over any resumption of nuclear talks with the communist state.
Despite Pyongyang’s recent overtures and improved inter-Korean ties, Seoul and Washington are apparently considering a fresh round of six-party talks to be still premature.
In late August, China proposed a so-called Track 1.5 meeting on Sept. 18 in Beijing of the top nuclear negotiators and scholars from the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas.
“I don’t believe there is a final decision about participation in these informal meetings, but there are a number of Track 2 types of efforts underway,” Russel said.
“The place where we focus is in facilitating authentic negotiations in which North Korea comes to the table, prepared to implement the commitments it has already made, and prepared to live up to obligations that it has.”
Touching on the Syria debacle, the diplomat expressed concerns over the suspected ties between Pyongyang and Damascus over chemical weapons programs.
“There certainly is a long and unsavory history of cooperation between the North Korean government and the Syrian regime,” Russel said.
“This is the time when the international community must speak out clearly and Korea has made its voice heard in a persuasive way on the international stage,” he added, citing Seoul’s recent statements that condemned the Bashar Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and called for accountability.
The career diplomat with expertise in Asia affairs took office in July. He previously served the National Security Council as senior director for East Asian affairs and is known as one of the architects of the U.S.’ “rebalancing” strategy toward Asia.
Seoul is the first leg of Russel’s first Asian tour as assistant secretary, which will take him to Japan, Brunei, Indonesia and China through Sept. 14.
In Seoul, he met with Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun, Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Kyung-soo and Cho Tae-yong, the Foreign Ministry’s top nuclear negotiator and special representative for peninsular peace and security affairs. He also visited Cheong Wa Dae’s national security chief Kim Jang-soo and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin.
By Shin Hyon-hee (email@example.com