SEOUL, Jan. 5 (KATAKAMI / Yonhap) — The U.S. special envoy on North Korea met with South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator Wednesday for discussions expected to focus on how best to use the option of dialogue to get Pyongyang to cease provocations and give up nuclear programs.
Talk of restarting the long-stalled nuclear disarmament negotiations with the North has gained traction as the U.S. prepares for a summit with China, which has strongly called for dialogue to reduce tensions, and as Pyongyang has shown a growing willingness to talk.
Stephen Bosworth, Washington’s special representative for North Korea policy, called for “serious negotiations” as a central strategy to deal with the communist nation, as he arrived in South Korea on Tuesday for talks with Seoul’s main nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-lac.
“We believe that serious negotiations must be at the heart of any strategy for dealing with North Korea, and we look forward to being able to launch those at a reasonably early time,” Bosworth told reporters at Incheon International Airport.
On Wednesday, Bosworth held talks with Wi. Though details were not immediately available, their discussions were expected to include the conditions that the North must meet before resuming the nuclear talks, such as halting its nuclear development and allowing international nuclear monitors back into the country.
Bosworth later met with Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, saying at the start of the meeting that he hopes South Koreans are “impressed and reassured by the very close coordination of policy that we’ve been undertaking over the last several months.”
Bosworth is scheduled to meet with Unification Minister Hyun In-taek later in the day.
His trip to the region, which will also take him to China and Japan, comes ahead of a summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao set for Jan. 19 in Washington where North Korea is expected to be a key topic.
China has called for restarting the six-party nuclear talks to curb tensions that were heightened after North Korea’s deadly shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in November and the revelations that it has a uranium enrichment facility for a suspected new atomic weapons program.
North Korea has also been signaling a growing willingness to resume negotiations.
In its New Year’s message issued Saturday, Pyongyang stressed the importance of improved relations and dialogue with South Korea and said that it wants to achieve peace in the region and make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
South Korea and the U.S. have urged Pyongyang to first demonstrate through action its commitment to give up nuclear programs and improve relations with Seoul if it wants to reopen the nuclear talks, a stance that reflects deep skepticism about a regime that has abused negotiations to only get concessions.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley reiterated the demand.
“We do want to see specific things from North Korea, including a reduction of tension between North and South, an end to provocations and a seriousness of purpose with respect to” a 2005 disarmament-for-aid deal, he said. “We have to be assured that dialogue would be constructive. We don’t just want to have talks for talks’ sake.”
The six-party talks have been deadlocked since the last session in December 2008 due to a North Korean boycott. The talks bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. (*)