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September 14, 09

NEWS / United States Willing to Meet Bilaterally with North Korea

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington — Following discussions with its partners in talks to eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, the United States says it is prepared to meet bilaterally with North Korea as a means of advancing the multilateral process known as the Six-Party Talks.

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley told reporters September 11 that if a bilateral discussion with North Korea can lead Pyongyang back to the international talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, “we think that is a legitimate means to a desirable end.”

North Korea had invited U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth and Ambassador Sung Kim, the State Department’s special envoy for the Six-Party Talks, to hold direct talks. However, Bosworth told reporters in Japan September 8 that while the Obama administration is willing to engage North Korea on a bilateral basis, it does not consider such talks as “a substitute for multilateral engagement” or a substitute to the revival of the six-party process.

Reaffirming that position, Crowley said, “Just to be clear, any discussion that we would have with North Korea will be in the context of the six-party process. The purpose of that discussion will be to try to convince North Korea to return … to a multilateral process, and, more specifically, to go back to its obligations in its agreement in 2005 to denuclearize.”

The assistant secretary said the U.S. decision on meeting with North Korea was made after Bosworth’s recent consultations in the region with other six-party participants. “We think there’s consensus” among the other participants, Crowley said.

“When it’ll happen, where it’ll happen, we’ll have to wait and see. We’ve made no decisions at this point other than just to say we are prepared for a bilateral talk if that will help advance the six-party process,” Crowley said.

A senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added that other countries in the Six-Party Talks have held their own bilateral talks with North Korea “on a routine basis.” The official cited South Korea’s recent discussions with North Korea on family reunification, as well as talks between Pyongyang and the Chinese.

After receiving the invitation for Bosworth and consulting with the other parties, the Obama administration made the assessment that “if a bilateral discussion can be an effective mechanism to get North Korea to come back to the six-party process or, more importantly, so that we can … remind them about what their obligations are and push them to take affirmative steps toward denuclearization, then our current judgment is that would be potentially a useful step,” the official said.

“As to what North Korea will be prepared to discuss should a meeting like that happen, we’ll wait and see,” the official said, adding that the senior American participant would probably be Bosworth, and that any meeting likely would not occur before world leaders convene in New York later in September for the opening of the 64th United Nations General Assembly.


Tags: secretary of state,


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