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U.S. tells North it is sending its envoy

Bosworth to visit Pyongyang after the Lee-Obama summit is finished  PLAY AUDIO

Nov 12,2009
The United States has informed North Korea of its decision to send a special nuclear envoy to discuss the regime’s possible return to the six-party talks, Washington said yesterday.

“We’ve told North Korea that we are prepared for Ambassador [Stephen] Bosworth and a small interagency team to visit Pyongyang at an appropriate time not yet determined,” said State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley in a press briefing.

“I would not expect this meeting to take place while the president is in - and the secretary are in the region. I would say, as an expectation, sometime between now and the end of the year,” he added. Scheduled to depart for Asia on Thursday, Washington time, U.S. President Barack Obama will arrive in Seoul next Wednesday.

Although giving a green light for Bosworth’s trip, Washington said it has no intention to negotiate with Pyongyang directly. The North had declared earlier this year that multilateral negotiations are dead.

“Ambassador Bosworth’s discussions in Pyongyang will take place in the context of the six-party talks. From our standpoint, the purpose will be to facilitate an early resumption of the six-party talks and to secure North Korea’s reaffirmation of the September 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks, including verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”

The 2005 agreement calls for Pyongyang’s nuclear dismantlement in return for economic aid and diplomatic recognition. The two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have also agreed to establish a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula to replace the Korean War armistice.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement supporting the move. “The government hopes the U.S.-North Korea bilateral dialogue will serve as an opportunity to persuade North Korea to return to the six-nation talks as soon as possible and resolve the nuclear crisis,” said Moon Tae-young, Foreign Ministry spokesman. “South Korea and the United States have had close consultations throughout the process of arranging the U.S.-North Korea talks and the cooperation will remain firm in the future.”

Pyongyang invited Bosworth about three months ago, but the Obama administration did not immediately accept the request. Noting that the United States has intensively worked with the international community to implement UN sanctions imposed on the Kim Jong-il regime for its missile and nuclear programs, Crowley said the North probably felt some pressure. Although the pressure has led to the North charm offensive for the past couple of months, Washington will not be fooled by Pyongyang’s strategy in the nuclear game, Crowley said.

“North Korea has a history of coming back to negotiations and expecting to be rewarded just for simply coming back for discussions. We’re not here to talk for talk’s sake, we’re here to see specific results by North Korea,” he said, adding that “the bottom line here is that North Korea has to take affirmative steps towards denuclearization. That remains our core objective in our policy towards North Korea.”

Bosworth will be the first senior U.S. official to visit North Korea in more than a year. Then-Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill made the most recent trip to the North in September 2008.

North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju is expected to be Bosworth’s counterpart. Kang was the chief negotiator at bilateral negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington to create the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework that temporarily halted the nuclear crisis on the peninsula. Bosworth served as the executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization from 1995 to 1997, an international consortium created to build non-military reactors in the North in return for a nuclear freeze under the Geneva agreement. Despite the rare opportunity of talking with the North, Washington has emphasized that substantial negotiation should take place at the six-party talks. Pyongyang, in contrast, has argued that the nuclear crisis is a bilateral matter between the North and the United States.

Separately from Bosworth’s trip, Seoul, Washington, Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow have agreed that the sanctions on Pyongyang must be implemented unless significant progress is made resolving the nuclear impasse, South Korean officials said.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]



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