New U.S. envoy to hit the ground running

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New U.S. envoy to hit the ground running

Washington’s nominee for chief negotiator to the six-party talks will likely begin his new role by meeting with his South Korean counterpart this week.

The meeting comes amid accelerated exchanges between Seoul and Washington to inject life into the long-stalled multiparty talks on North Korea’s denuclearization.

A diplomatic source in Washington told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday that the U.S. government will officially appoint Clifford Hart this week as its chief delegate to the six-party talks.

Hart will replace Sung Kim, who was named the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, but has not yet received the official appointment.

Hart’s quick appointment, the source said, is to “put the U.S. in the right position to be able to swiftly respond to the resumption of six-party talks, which is possible at any time, and give a message to North Korea that the U.S. still regards the six-party talks as an important tool to resolve the problems.”

Hart, a career diplomat, is known for his expertise on China. He served in senior positions at the U.S. Department of State dealing with China and Taiwan.

A U.S. State Department official told the JoongAng Ilbo that Hart will also be able to grasp the situation of the Korean Peninsula quickly, thanks to his extraordinary intelligence.

Another diplomatic observer said Hart could use his expertise to draw more cooperation from China regarding the six-party talks. China is North Korea’s closest ally and the chair of the six-party talks.

Wi Sung-lac, Seoul’s chief six-party negotiator who left for the U.S. yesterday, will meet Hart this week.

During the trip, Wi will also meet James Steinberg, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State; Stephen Bosworth, Washington’s special envoy on North Korea policy; and Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

“I will try to get North Korea to positively respond to [inter-Korean] talks on denuclearization that our government suggested [in January],” Wi said before leaving for the U.S.

The North has threatened to stop the momentum toward restarting the six-party talks, as it angrily responded to Seoul’s demand for an apology for its provocations. Some officials in Seoul have said inter-Korean denuclearization talks could possibly be held separate from the apology.

By Kim Jung-wook, Moon Gwang-lip []

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
위성락 방미…"대화국면 조성에 노력"

'北 비핵화 회담 호응이 관건'
우리 측 북핵 6자회담 수석대표인 위성락 외교통상부 한반도평화교섭본부장은 21일 "현재 한반도 정세를 대화 국면으로 움직이는 노력을 살려나갈 것"이라고 밝혔다.

위 본부장은 이날 오전 북한 문제 협의차 미국 워싱턴으로 출국을 앞두고 연합뉴스와 한 전화통화에서 "북한이 우리 정부가 제안한 비핵화 회담에 호응하는 것이 관건인데 그렇게 되도록 노력하겠다"며 이같이 말했다.

위 본부장은 미국에서 제임스 스타인버그 미 국무부 부장관, 스티븐 보즈워스 대북정책 특별대표, 클리퍼드 하트 6자회담 신임 특사, 커트 캠벨 국무부 동아태 차관보 등을 면담하고 6자회담 재개 방안 등을 협의한 뒤 26일 귀국할 예정이다.

이번 워싱턴 방문은 오는 24일 열릴 한ㆍ미 외교장관 회담에 앞서 양측이 실무적으로 의제를 협의하는 차원이기도 하다.

위 본부장은 남북대화→북미대화→6자회담으로 이어지는 '3단계 접근법'에 대해 "우리 정부가 다른 나라와 공조해 성안한 대화 방법을 어떻게 진행해나갈지 미국과 논의할 것"이라고 말했다.

그는 이어 "이 접근법이 큰 틀에서 변화는 없겠지만 상황에 따라 대응해야 한다"면서 "천안함ㆍ연평도 문제와 비핵화 협의는 기본적으로 별개"라고 설명했다.

미국의 대북식량 지원과 관련해 위 본부장은 "시간이 좀 걸릴 것 같다"면서 "미국에서도 다양한 여론이 있고 식량평가 결과도 나오지 않았기 때문에 진전이 많지 않은 상황"이라고 밝혔다.

위 본부장의 방미에는 우리 측 6자회담 차석대표인 조현동 북핵외교기획단장이 수행한다.
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