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North demands a U.S. meeting about arms deal

Nov 03,2009
North Korea yesterday pressed the United States to sit down for direct talks to discuss the nuclear standoff and warned that it would “go its own way” if Washington doesn’t respond to the demand. In a Foreign Ministry statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, North Korea argued that it had made a “magnanimous enough” offer that it could return to the six-party talks, depending on the progress made at the U.S.-North Korea meeting, and that “now is the U.S. turn.”

“If the U.S. is not ready to sit at a negotiating table with the [North], it will go its own way,” the statement read. These comments were made in the aftermath of the rare meeting in the States between nuclear envoys from Pyongyang and Washington. Ri Gun, the North’s No. 2 nuclear negotiator, met with top U.S. nuclear representative Sung Kim in New York on Oct. 25 before attending a security forum in San Diego, California.

While few details have been offered about their meeting, North Korea said yesterday the occasion “was not a preliminary meeting for talks between North Korea and the United States. So there was no discussion on substantial issues related to North Korea-U.S. dialogue.”

North Korea has long demanded direct talks with the United States to discuss the nuclear issue and has said the “hostile” U.S. policy on Pyongyang was forcing Pyongyang to rely on nuclear power as deterrence.

And the North wants to keep the ball in the U.S. court. “If the hostile relations between [the North] and the U.S. are settled and confidence is built between them, there will be meaningful progress in realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the statement read yesterday.

But Washington has other ideas.

It considers any one-on-one dealings with Pyongyang a chance to persuade the North to return to the stalled six-party talks and has maintained that all nuclear discussions must be held within that multilateral framework. Various U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have said the United States would not sit down with North Korea unless such a meeting could help resume the six-party discussions, which have been on hold since last December.

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test last May and declared the six-party talks “dead.” But it has also recently expressed a willingness to engage in six-party talks, and has mixed its apparent charm offensive with short-range missile tests.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]




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