U.S. sets conditions for restart of six-party talks

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U.S. sets conditions for restart of six-party talks

North Korea must prove it’s sincere by taking important steps, such as ending its nuclear and missile tests, a U.S. Department of State spokesman said on Tuesday.

The conditions put forth by Mark Toner, acting deputy spokesman, are being interpreted as the most explicit the U.S. has announced so far in order for the North to be able to return to multinational negotiations on its nuclear programs. The North walked away from the six-party talks in 2009.

“I would just say that U.S. Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates cited that example,” said Mark Toner, acting deputy department spokesman, answering a question as to whether Gates revealed preconditions for the resumption of six-party talks as part of his comments in Beijing that the North should adopt a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

“But obviously, that example is in the context of what we’ve been saying so far, which is that North Korea needs to cease its provocative behavior and it needs to live up to its obligations and commitments, including the 2005 joint statement and UN Security Council resolutions,” Toner said. “Gates cited one example, but obviously there’s more there. It’s not just about rhetoric. For North Korea it’s about changing its behavior, and that goes beyond that specific example. But that’s certainly a relevant example.”

Gates, who met Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday, told reporters after the meeting that North Korea is becoming a direct threat to the U.S. with its continued development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Gates said the U.S. will have to respond to the threat.

He suggested that Pyongyang’s sincerity could be shown with a moratorium on missile and nuclear testing.

An unidentified senior U.S. official told Reuters on Tuesday that the North should allow UN nuclear inspectors back into the country, in addition to halting missile and nuclear tests, if it wants to resume the six-party talks.

The North expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors in April 2009.

The remarks by the U.S. officials were made as Seoul, Washington and the three other parties - China, Japan and Russia - are stepping up diplomatic moves to bring closure to recent tension on the Korean Peninsula.

China, the host of the six-party talks, is strongly urging their resumption.

The North also began making conciliatory gestures with a series of suggestions for inter-Korean talks, including one received by the South yesterday.

The South has been urging the North to show it’s sincere by apologizing for the Yeonpyeong shelling and the sinking of the Cheonan before talks resume.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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