No 6-party talks until Cheonan solved: U.S.

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No 6-party talks until Cheonan solved: U.S.

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Sung Kim

WASHINGTON - Sung Kim, chief U.S. negotiator to the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, said at a recent forum that the stalled negotiations will not resume before the completion of the probe into the sinking of a South Korean warship, participants at the forum said here yesterday.

According to the participants, Kim also said if North Korea is found responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan on March 26, the other five nations - the United States, South Korea, Russia, Japan and China - will discuss a joint response.

Kim spoke yesterday, Korea time, at the fourth annual Seoul-Washington Forum co-hosted by the Brookings Institution and the Korea Foundation.

Those who attended the forum, held behind closed doors, said Kim stressed the top priority is to find out what really happened to the Cheonan. North Korea is suspected of launching a torpedo attack on the warship.

Kim was also quoted as saying that if North Korea is found guilty of attacking the Cheonan, the future of the six-party talks will be determined only after the five other members discuss their joint countermeasure.

Participants said Kim was asked what the United States would do if North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, currently visiting China, declared the North would return to the six-party talks, which were last held in December 2008. Kim responded that the six-party talks would not take place until the Cheonan investigation is complete.

The U.S. government has yet to confirm Kim Jong-il’s trip to China, but the State Department yesterday said it hoped China would persuade North Korea to return to negotiations.

“We would trust that if there are meetings with high-level Chinese officials, that they will stress, as we do, that the only route forward for North Korea is through the six-party process,” said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.

“There are things that North Korea has to do before we can have meaningful conversations, including taking affirmative steps on denuclearization.”

Commenting on the timing of the six-party talks’ resumption in relation to the Cheonan probe, Crowley said he believed the investigation would be finished before North Korea decided to return.

“I’m not projecting anything, just simply saying that North Korea has had months and months and months to make this decision, and they have failed to do so,” he said.

“But I would anticipate the South Korean investigation being finished relatively soon. I just don’t know what decision North Korea’s going to make.”

Prospects for the resumption of the six-party talks have been on a roller coaster since last summer. In protest of international sanctions imposed after its nuclear test last May, North Korea declared the six-party talks “dead” and vowed it would never return.

But in September, Kim Jong-il expressed willingness to return and in February, Kim Gye-gwan, the North’s chief nuclear negotiator, visited China.

By Kim Jung-wook [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

`김정일-후진타오 6일 회담, 中에 입장전달`



미국 국무부는 5일(현지시간) 천안함 조사결과에 따라서 6자회담에 대한 대응방안을 결정한다는 입장을 공식 재확인했다.

국무부는 또 김정일 북한 국방위원장과 후진타오(胡錦濤) 중국 국가주석 간의 정상회담이 6일로 예정돼 있으며 미국은 이 회담에 대한 입장을 중국 측에 전달했다고 밝혔다.

필립 크롤리 국무부 공보담당차관보는 이날 정례브리핑에서 '천안함 조사와 6자회담 재개를 투 트랙으로 생각하느냐'는 질문에 대해 "북한의 행동은 과거 회담의 속도에 영향을 미쳐왔다"며 "천안함 조사가 마무리되고 난 후 그것이 어떤 영향을 미칠 것인지 결론을 내리겠다는 입장은 분명하다"고 답변했다.

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