Lippert doubts North’s sincerityThe top U.S. envoy to South Korea expressed his disappointment Wednesday in North Korea’s lack of sincerity toward denuclearization talks.
“[The Barack Obama] administration has engaged in talks with Iran, talks with Cuba, talks with Myanmar, because … this administration firmly believes principle diplomacy, in which a partner or interlocutor on the other side of the table is interested in trying to solve complicated problems, can lead to good results,” U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert said in an address at a defense forum in central Seoul. “The track record is pretty clear, and we are interested in North Korea negotiations.”
Lippert addressed a forum organized by the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses held at the Plaza Hotel in central Seoul that included discussions on security, the economy, global cooperation and the Korea-U.S. alliance.
The United States, he said, has “reiterated many times that we are willing to engage in talks with North Korea, but the government in Pyongyang must demonstrate that they are ready to engage in authentic and credible negotiations that lead to denuclearization.”
“We are disappointed in the behavior of Pyongyang,” he added, “but we are constantly hoping for better days.”
Lippert pointed out that North Korea is “more isolated than ever before.”
“The sanctions are tougher than they’ve been, and other parties of the six party talks are more unified,” he continued, referring to the long-stalled dialogue on denuclearizing Pyongyang that involves China, Japan, Russia, the United States and both Koreas.
He added that economic development in Pyongyang cannot come without denuclearization.
The ambassador also discussed the tense relations between Seoul and Tokyo due to historical issues, and addressed a reporter’s question about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s upcoming address to the U.S. Congress on April 29 in Washington.
Washington does not play a “formal mediation role,” Lippert said, “but we do encourage both sides ... to find a solution that satisfies the people here in Seoul and the people in Tokyo.”
The potential of future cooperation between Korea and Japan “is something we are hopeful for, and there can be more of that. But again, on these historical issues, we recognize these are very tough and very difficult issues.
“At the same time, we are hopeful that through encouraging friends in Tokyo that statements and efforts for healing and reconciliation can be made.”
Lippert was attacked March 5 by a radical activist wielding a knife during a breakfast function in central Seoul and suffered injuries to his face and hand. He hosted a special reception Tuesday at his official residence to thank nearly 100 first responders.
BY CHANG SE-JEONG, SARAH KIM [email@example.com]