Nuclear sessions could be at handWASHINGTON - The six-party talks could reconvene in March or April, a high-ranking South Korean official said yesterday, as diplomatic efforts to reopen the stalled discussions continued.
Visiting Washington, the official told South Korean correspondents that the six-party talks, which were last held in December 2008, could take place in the coming weeks. The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, cited “recent circumstances” as the basis for his judgment.
He referred to the meeting in February between nuclear officials from China and North Korea. Nuclear envoys from South Korea and the United States also traveled to China in February for consultations on how to bring North Korea back to the table.
“North Korea has recently engaged in dialogues under the premise that it would return to the six-party setting,” the official said. “China [the chair nation of the talks] is also intent on an early resumption of the talks.”
The comments came a day after South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in the latest diplomatic move to help persuade the North to return to the nuclear talks.
The anonymous official stressed that the United States “wants a guarantee that North Korea will be back to the talks. Any additional bilateral meeting between Pyongyang and Washington would only take place under such a guarantee.”
U.S. officials have also seemed optimistic. Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said in Tokyo yesterday, “I hope that in the not too distant future but fairly soon we will see a resumption of the talks. For our part, we are ready to move on very short notice.”
Clinton said Saturday that the United States is “encouraged by signs of progress to return to the talks.” Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, chimed in and said, “We see the potential here for the six-party process to begin in the coming weeks or months.”
Kim Gye-gwan, the North’s chief nuclear negotiator, hasn’t made any concrete statements on the talks since his visit to Beijing.
Kim has applied for a U.S. visa to attend an academic seminar in New York. If his visa is granted, Kim could meet his U.S. counterpart, Sung Kim.
North Korea has demanded two preconditions before it will return to the six-party setting: lifting of international sanctions and negotiations for a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. Other parties, though, want the North to first come back to the talks.
By Kim Jung-wook, Yoo Jee-ho [email@example.com]