Hillary Clinton talks tough on North Korea
Stephen Bosworth gets appointed as new U.S. envoy to Pyongyang
|U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton points to a student during a Q&A session at Ewha Womans University in Seoul yesterday. Earlier in the day, Clinton had talks with South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and made a courtesy call to President Lee Myung-bak. [YONHAP] |
Visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday voiced for the first time her concerns about a possible power struggle in North Korea, which has not named a successor to its current leader Kim Jong-il.
Clinton was speaking at a press conference following a meeting with South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan in Seoul yesterday morning.
During the session, she also announced the appointment of former South Korean Ambassador Stephen Bosworth as the U.S. special envoy to Pyongyang and affirmed that the U.S. would not allow the South to be sidelined by the North’s desire for direct talks with Washington.
Kim’s alleged stroke in August and a months-long disappearance from the public eye have fanned speculation about which of Kim’s three sons might take power, if Pyongyang decides to pursue a dynastic succession, prompting Clinton to speculate about the makeup of Pyongyang’s future government.
“When you are thinking about the future of dealing with the government that doesn’t have any clear succession, with no vice president or no prime minister, it’s something you have to think about,” said Clinton, who is in Seoul as part of a five-day Asian tour, which includes stops in China, Indonesia and Japan. She left for Beijing last night.
“But the purpose of what we’re planning today is to deal with the government and the leadership that exist now,” she said, following up a statement made Thursday in Indonesia that “the whole leadership situation [in the North] is somewhat unclear.”
During the press conference with Yu, Clinton also strongly condemned Pyongyang’s recent hostile rhetoric toward Seoul, stressing that doing so is “unhelpful.” The North has been ratcheting up threats to adopt an “all-out confrontational posture,” warning it is only “a matter of time” before the two Koreas come to blows.
Inter-Korean relations have sunk to their lowest point in years following Pyongyang’s repeated attacks on the South’s conservative Lee Myung-bak administration, while Seoul seems unwilling to allay growing tensions.
“We are calling for the government of North Korea to refrain from the kind of provocative, unhelpful war of words that it has been engaged with,” Clinton said. “That is not very fruitful, so we are looking for existing leadership to be responsive to our desire to have them engaged with the six-party talks as well.”
Clinton also announced the appointment of Bosworth, 69, as U.S. special envoy on North Korea policies, a position that will involve navigating the denuclearization minefield with Pyongyang.
The former ambassador to Korea used to be the executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, a consortium charged with building two light-water nuclear energy reactors in the North in exchange for its denuclearization efforts.
“We need a capable and experienced diplomat to stem our risks from North Korea’s nuclear ambitions,” said Clinton, noting that Bosworth will serve as a senior emissary to Pyongyang and other regional partners, and will report to both her and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Sung Kim, the State Department’s current special ambassador to the six-party talks, will work closely with Bosworth, leading day-to-day efforts to maintain constant contact with working-level officials of the six-party member countries.
Christopher Hill, former assistant secretary of state in East Asia, was previously Washington’s chief negotiator at the six-party talks. Bosworth looks likely to replace him, which would allow Kurt Campbell, Hill’s designated replacement, to pay more attention to other regional issues.
The heavyweight appointment of Bosworth, who retired from the diplomatic service in 2001, is seen as an incentive to get Pyongyang back to the stalled six-party talks, although Clinton reminded the North that once it comes back to the table, it will have to allow international inspectors to visit its main nuclear Yongbyon complex.
“We firmly believe that North Korea must live up to the commitments they made in the 2006 joint statement and other agreements,” she said.
Clinton also tried to defuse growing concerns in Seoul that the South may be sidelined while the North attempts to instigate direct and exclusive negotiations with the U.S., as President Obama has hinted he would be willing to have direct dialogue with Pyongyang.
“There is no issue on which we are more united than North Korea,” said Clinton. “We maintain our joint resolve to work together. ... North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the U.S. while insulting and refusing dialogue with South Korea.”
Clinton and Yu said their two countries’ leaders will probably have their first meeting around the time of the G-20 summit, which will be held in London in April.
“Minister Yu and I discussed a path toward a shared solution to these challenges, and we look forward to our presidents’ meeting around [the] G-20 meeting,” said Clinton.
During her high-profile visit to Seoul, Clinton also met with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Han Seung-soo. During an unusual luncheon meeting with a foreign minister-level official, Lee said there is “a possibility for the North to give up its nuclear ambition” through continual efforts within the six-party talks.
By Jung Ha-won Staff Reporter [firstname.lastname@example.org]