US: No deadline, concessions for North Korea
SEOUL - The U.S. chief negotiator said on Monday that there are no deadlines or concessions to be offered for North Korea to return to nuclear talks.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Christopher Hill said in an interview he was reluctant to put a deadline for North Korea to get back to the table, but did say options where being considered in case the talks fell through.
"I am really reluctant to put a deadline out there, especially an artificial deadline," Hill told Reuters at the U.S. embassy in Seoul, where he has been ambassador for less than a year. It was his first interview in his new role.
Security analysts have said patience in Washington is wearing thin for Pyongyang to return to talks and recent rhetoric from the North to turn the process into mutual disarmament talks has only made tensions worse.
Pyongyang has asked for a U.S. apology for calling it an outpost of tyranny. There has been speculation in diplomatic circles that Washington may have to offer sweeteners, such as considering diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, to get the six-party process rolling again.
"We are not going to make concessions for the purpose of bringing them back to the talks," he said.
Hill said North Korea, with its anemic economy and chronic food shortages, has a host of problems that cannot be solved by having atomic weapons programs.
"It is a shame that so much of our diplomatic efforts are engaged in an extremely underdeveloped country that is not producing food for its people, but which seems to be in the production of extremely dangerous weapons," Hill said.
He commented on media speculation the North had exported uranium hexafluoride, which can be used to make nuclear weapons material, through a network set up by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb program. The material ended up in Libya.
"In the Libya case, there was some material, where the origin we have every reason to believe came from North Korea, albeit brokered, but the material ended up in Libya," Hill said.
Hill said he was not aware of other cases where the North has exported nuclear weapons material but he added "one has to see a pattern of their behavior."
On Feb. 10, North Korea declared for the first time it possessed nuclear weapons and it also said it was pulling out of six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear ambitions. The talks bring together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.