S. Korea, U.S. coordinate strategy on N. Korea

September 5, 2009 11:18 pm 


SEOUL, Sept. 5 — South Korea and the United States held a top-level meeting here Saturday to discuss a joint response to North Korea's recent overtures and renewed nuclear threats.

Stephen Bosworth, Washington's special representative for North Korean policy, and top Seoul nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac reviewed the current situation and a joint response to Pyongyang's so-called "two-track" tactic, government sources said.

On Friday, the North said it has almost acquired the technology to enrich uranium, adding to a nuclear arsenal composed of several plutonium bombs. That claim remains unconfirmed but experts doubt the cash-strapped nation has sufficient facilities to actually produce highly-enriched uranium.

The North's provocative statement followed weeks of conciliatory gestures, including the release of detained South Korean and American nationals, an agreement to resume inter-Korean tourism businesses, and the reconnection of direct communication lines with the South.

Bosworth and Wi refused to reveal the details of their consultation, saying they will have a chance to talk to the media on Sunday.

Bosworth also met with Unification Minister Hyun In-taek, who is in charge of Seoul's policy on Pyongyang. He is scheduled to have a breakfast meeting with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan on Sunday before heading to Japan, the last leg of his three-nation tour.

Shortly before leaving Beijing for Seoul on Friday, Bosworth reaffirmed that he has "no plans at the moment to go to North Korea."

He confirmed media reports that the North has invited him to visit Pyongyang.

"Well, one of the things that we're doing on this trip is to coordinate with our partners on the way in which we should respond to the invitations that the North Koreans have extended," he said.

Diplomatic sources said the main purpose of Bosworth's ongoing regional tour is to discuss a precondition for his visit to the North, expected later this year. In Japan, he is likely to try to get acquainted with incoming Japanese government officials who will deal with North Korea.

His primary task is to jump-start the six-way talks on denuclearizing North Korea, which the North says it will no longer join, said the sources. The talks also include South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan.

North Korea has been seeking to talk only with the U.S., but Washington has urged Pyongyang to return to the six-way talks first.

The Chosun Sinbo, a pro-North Korea newspaper published in Tokyo, said the U.S. has to choose between dialogue and sanctions.

"The Obama administration is talking about the moral responsibility of the only country that used nuclear weapons and appealing for the creation of a 'nuclear-free' world," the newspaper said in a commentary. "North Korea has no objection to it. The two sides will be able to reach a compromise if they try to resolve the problem through dialogue."

Meanwhile, a North Korean delegation, led by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il, returned home Saturday after a five-day stay in China as part of an exchange of high-level visits to mark the 60th anniversary of Beijing-Pyongyang diplomatic ties this year.

Despite some media speculation, Bosworth did not meet Kim in the Chinese capital.

Russia vowed it would efforts to normalize the denuclearization process.

"Russia is ready to continue working to reach the common goal for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula… and the creation of conditions for the stable socio-economic development of all the countries in the region," Russia's top nuclear envoy Alexi Borodavkin was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

"These goals should be reached through negotiations with the participation of the six nations," he added. (PNA/Yonhap) scs/rsm


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