U.S. envoy to North: Change, not ouster, is goal

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U.S. envoy to North: Change, not ouster, is goal

The United States isn’t looking to overturn North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s regime, but rather wishes for change within it, the Obama administration’s top envoy to North Korea said yesterday.

“We do not regard regime change as the outcome of our policy, but we do regard a change in regime behavior as necessary to any fundamental improvement in the overall relationship,” U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Bosworth added that he told North Korean officials in his last visit to Pyongyang in 2009 that the regime shouldn’t operate “under the fear that we are dedicated to and determined to undermine the regime.”

The United States has turned down the North’s requests for talks, urging the two Koreas to engage in dialogue first before North Korea engages with other countries. Washington and Seoul have urged Pyongyang to show sincerity in its actions in order to repair relations between the two Koreas.

Seoul has also demanded “responsible action” from North Korea for last year’s provocations, including the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan and the attack on Yeonpyeong Island. Pyongyang denies any involvement in the Cheonan attack.

The United States repeated its stance yesterday, with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell saying during the congressional hearing, “We believe that North-South dialogue is an important initial step toward the resumption of the six-party talks. North Korea’s decision to walk out of the recent military talks squandered a valuable opportunity to improve relations and demonstrate its commitment to dialogue.”

North Korea stormed out of working-level talks with the South earlier last month, angrily denying their involvement in the torpedoing of the Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.

“If North Korea improves relations with South Korea and demonstrates a change in behavior, including taking irreversible steps to denuclearize, complying with international law and ceasing provocative behavior, the U.S. will stand ready to move toward normalization of our relationship,” Campbell said. “The United States remains committed to meaningful dialogue, but we will not reward North Korea for shattering the peace or defying the international community.”

Also mentioned during the congressional hearing was the possibility of resuming food aid to North Korea, something that has been suspended since 2009 when the North threw out nuclear inspectors. The United States has been hesitant to provide aid because of lack of oversight and because food handouts could garner criticism that the U.S. is rewarding North Korea for bad behavior.

Bosworth said that sending food to the North could be possible if the distribution was closely monitored.

“We provide food aid when we see a perceived need and in a way that we can monitor how the food aid is used and who the recipients are,” he said. “The choice here is whether these people are allowed to starve. It’s a humanitarian issue, not a political one.”

However, it is a decision that is still to be made, and Campbell said yesterday that North Korea would go a long way before directing funds from its nuclear programs to feed its people. “They have demonstrated historically that they are prepared to allow enormous suffering,” he said.

Diplomatic sources say North Korea has contacted other countries, including the U.K., France and Germany as well as Southeast Asian nations, for food.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[연합]
'2009년 12월 방북 때도 북측에 거듭 전달'

스티븐 보즈워스 미국 대북정책 특별대표는 1일 버락 오바마 행정부의 대북정책의 목표는 '정권교체'(regime change)가 아니라 관계개선을 위한 '북한 지도부의 행동 변화'라는 점을 재차 강조했다.

보즈워스 대표는 이날 북한 문제를 주제로 열린 상원 외교위원회 청문회에서 미국의 대북정책과 '정권교체'의 연관성 여부를 묻는 질문에 "북한의 정권교체는 미국의 정책 목표가 아니다"라고 답변했다.

보즈워스 대표는 "북한에 체제의 영속성은 필수불가결한 목표이자 그들의 모든 것"이라고 전제한뒤 "우리는 지난 수년동안 여러 기회에 걸쳐 북한 정권의 변화를 정책 결과물로서 고려하지 않고 있다는 점을 강조해왔다"고 말했다.

그는 그러면서 "우리는 총체적인 관계 개선을 위한 근본적인 토대로서 북한 체제의 행동(behavior) 변화가 필요하다고 생각한다"고 말했다.

보즈워스 대표는 북한에 대한 소극적 안전보장(negative security assurance) 전망도 밝혔다며 "오바마 행정부 들어서도 지난 2년 동안 북한 정권교체는 우리의 정책이 아니라는 점을 역설해왔다"고 말했다.

그는 지난 2009년 12월 북한을 방문했을때도 이 같은 뜻을 북측에 전했다면서 "그러나 북측은 우리를 믿으려 하지 않고, 전적으로 신뢰하지 않는 것 같았다"며 그렇지만 여전히 미국의 정책은 북한 정권교체가 아니라고 강조했다.

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