Top U.S. envoy to visit Seoul over six-party talks

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Top U.S. envoy to visit Seoul over six-party talks

The new top U.S. envoy on the six-party talks will make his first visit to South Korea in two weeks, a diplomatic source told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday.

“Now that he started work officially, Envoy Clifford Hart will visit the Republic of Korea in the middle of this month as part of an on-field trip [to the parties involved in the multinational talks],” the source said.

The source said Hart will be accompanied by Stephen Bosworth, Washington’s special representative for North Korea policy, and will discuss North Korea’s nuclear issues with South Korean counterparts in Seoul.

His visit comes as Pyongyang is lukewarm about Seoul’s proposal of inter-Korean talks, considered as a prestep for the resumption of the six-party talks, and the U.S. is struggling to find ways to resume it without putting pressure on the South.

The aim of the six-party talks, which involve the U.S., Japan, China, Russia and the two Koreas, is the denuclearization of the North.

The talks have been stalled since April 2009 when the North walked out in defiance of the international pressure on its missile tests. The possibility of the restart of the talks dimmed after two deadly provocations against the South last year, blamed on the North.

“The meeting of the foreign ministers of ROK-U.S. held in Washington last month confirmed that the North Korea’s denuclearization will be dealt with separately from the issues of the [South Korean warship] Cheonan and [the South Korean island of] Yeonpyeong,” the source said.

“The visit by the U.S. officials including Hart thus will be focused on discussions with Seoul over measures to accelerate talks with North Korea.”

Hart has replaced Sung Kim, who was appointed the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea. A career diplomat, Hart served in senior positions at the U.S. Department of State dealing with China and Taiwan.

Some diplomatic observers say Hart’s expertise on China could work in favor of Washington and Seoul 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.

By Kang Chan-ho, Moon Gwang-lip []
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