A high-level diplomat indicated on Tuesday that the United States was open to conducting further direct talks with North Korea, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, Nov. 21).
Envoys from Washington and Pyongyang have met twice since July in hopes of making progress toward resuming the long-stalled six-nation negotiations on shuttering North Korea's nuclear operations. Those meetings -- along with two similar sessions between North and South Korea -- did not appear to produce concrete results.
The Obama administration "will certainly look at" additional meetings if they appear to offer value, according to Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.
"But, right now the responsibility is with North Korea to meet the requirements that have been laid out very clearly to ensure the six-party talks might resume again," she said during a visit to Seoul.
Those demands include suspending uranium enrichment operations unveiled one year ago, which could give the North another route toward producing nuclear-weapon material.
"They have not yet made all of their commitments they need to, including on ending their uranium enrichment program," Sherman said.
The North has sought to reopen the talks, last held in December 2008, without conditions (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Nov. 21).
Recently departed U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth said on Monday he anticipated another bilateral U.S.-North Korean meeting prior to the potential restart of the six-party process that also includes China, Japan, Russia and South Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Bosworth skirted the issue of whether the U.S. diplomatic effort has become unwieldy because of internal discussions involving the White House and the State and Defense departments.
"It is what it is. We have been trying for our part to make progress, to move ahead, to be serious, to try to gain confidence that North Korea will come to the table with serious intentions of moving forward," he said.
"I think we have to be patient, but we have to be prepared to move ahead," added Bosworth, who left his diplomatic position following the last round of U.S.-North Korean talks in October.
Bosworth also addressed the uranium issue. Analysts have said that a third North Korean nuclear test might involve a device powered by enriched uranium, rather than the plutonium used in previous trials.
"We know they have been working on uranium enrichment. We don't really know how much they might have produced and of what quality," he said. "But there is no question that the existence of a uranium enrichment program complicates the negotiations" (Lee Chi-dong, Yonhap News Agency, Nov. 21).