U.S. envoys visit Asia to discuss six-party talks
U.S. President Barack Obama’s envoy to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, will visit South Korea, Japan and China next week to discuss resuming the six-party talks to shut down the North’s nuclear weapons program, the U.S. State Department confirmed yesterday.
Bosworth will be accompanied by Sung Kim, U.S. envoy to the six-party talks, and Daniel Russell, director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley yesterday.
“[They] will be traveling to Seoul on Sept. 12 through 14; Tokyo, Sept. 14 and 15; and Beijing, Sept. 15 and 16, for discussions on North Korea,” Crowley said.
Bosworth’s visit comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il offered to resume the talks during his visit to China late last month, signaling a possible softening of relations between the isolated state and the international community.
The six-party talks have been idle since the North walked away last April. After that, North Korea tested missiles and an atomic device, and this March, a South Korean naval warship was sunk, for which South Korea and the U.S. blame North Korea, though Pyongyang denies responsibility.
Bosworth’s last visit to North Korea was in December when he unsuccessfully tried to convince the North to return to the talks.
“It’s North Korea that needs to do what it can to create a better environment for our progress,” Crowley said.
When asked whether the visiting team would be meeting any North Korean officials, Crowley said there were “no meetings anticipated.”
Crowley was reserved in his views regarding North Korea’s recent release of a South Korean squidding boat crew it seized Aug. 8, and regarding the North’s request for rice and other aid from the South.
“Let’s separate those two,” he said. “It is important that North Korea and South Korea have a constructive relationship, but beyond that, I have no comment.”
South Korean nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lac, and his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, visited the U.S. last week, and Wi said that it was still “premature to expect a breakthrough” while urging “relevant parties to make efforts for the early resumption of the six-party talks.”
The flurry of diplomatic movement comes as North Korea is preparing to convene the first meeting of representatives of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party in 44 years, at which it is expected that Kim Jong-il’s son Kim Jong-un will be appointed to a high rank in the party to confirm him as heir apparent.
By Christine Kim [email@example.com]