North hints at a nukes-for-aid deal in new talks

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North hints at a nukes-for-aid deal in new talks

North Korea has dangled the prospect that it might suspend nuclear-weapons and long-range missile tests if aid-for-disarmament negotiations get back on track.

But it’s not ready to declare a moratorium on space launches - the act that derailed its last attempt to negotiate with Washington.

Recent informal discussions between former U.S. officials and North Korean negotiators in Europe showed Pyongyang’s desire to restart six-nation talks on its nuclear program. But they also underscored the major hurdles that remain before the United States would be persuaded that diplomacy with the secretive regime is worth another shot.

North Korea’s outreach comes after it set the Korean Peninsula on edge with a February nuclear test and dire threats of pre-emptive strikes - and 18 months since a long-range rocket launch derailed an Obama administration attempt to negotiate a nuclear freeze in exchange for food aid.

Stephen Bosworth, predecessor of the current U.S. envoy for North Korea, took part in both rounds of discussions, in Berlin and London in late September and early October, across the table from Vice Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, the North’s representative at the stalled six-party talks that also include China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

“We were trying to provide context in which the North Koreans could make wiser decisions than they have in the past,’’ Bosworth told the Associated Press, describing the talks as “amicable.’’

He said he wasn’t speaking for the U.S. administration, which stresses that before the nuclear negotiations can restart, it must see actions and not just words from the government of the young leader Kim Jong-un to show it is committed to the goal of denuclearization it agreed to in 2005.

“Washington’s position is that it’s not ready to come back to the negotiating table until North Korea demonstrates a somewhat more credible approach. Since they [North Korea] have been the ones that destroyed last year’s agreement, it’s up to them to create the conditions to show they are serious,’’ Bosworth said.

The six-party process aims at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for economic assistance, but the North withdrew from the talks in 2008 and has since conducted two nuclear tests and launched a three-stage rocket into space, moving closer to having an atomic weapon that could threaten America.

AP

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