Rice: N. Korea talks to be open-ended

Updated: 2006-12-13 11:01

WASHINGTON - The resumed six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program will end only with a firm commitment that Kim Jong Il's government is scrapping the program, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006.(AP
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006. [AP]

Only in that context, she said, will the negotiators talk about economic and energy aid to North Korea and increased political contact that eventually could lead to full relations between the United States and the communist-led country.

"I don't think anyone would ask us that we set a firm deadline by which, if we cannot do this, then the talks end," Rice told reporters after meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. "I do think that there is an expectation in the international community that these talks are not for the sake of talks."

She said that, in talking with her colleagues at last month's meeting in North Vietnam of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, she got a "very strong sense that these talks need to show results."

The Chinese government announced on Monday that the suspended talks would be resumed Dec. 18 in Beijing. On Sept. 19, 2005, the six parties - North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States - signed a joint statement setting out the talks' goals and security guarantees and other incentives that could follow once North Korea was committed to denuclearization.

Shortly after, the United States imposed financial sanctions against North Korean interests as punishment for counterfeiting US currency and other alleged infractions. North Korea walked out and vowed not to return to the talks until the sanctions were lifted.

The talks gained new urgency in the ensuing months after North Korea test-fired missiles and, on Oct. 9, exploded an underground nuclear device.

Rice said that, particularly after the nuclear test, North Korea "needs to demonstrate that it is in fact committed to denuclearization."

She cited the 2005 agreement as saying that only then, "in the context of denuclearization, we would be talking about economic assistance, about energy assistance, about increased political contact toward, over some period of time, normalization of relations."

Downer, the Australian minister, agreed with Rice that the talks should not be for the sake of talking, which would be pointless, but he suggested the possibility of quick results.

"I'm sure the Americans would want talks to be finished by the evening of Dec. 24. Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen," Downer said, linking the talks to the Dec. 25 Christmas holiday.

"They've got to be talks that produce real outcomes. There are constructive ideas on the table, and they should be picked up and hopefully by Christmas - maybe a little later, but hopefully by that time - we will see some real progress on this issue, the denuclearization of North Korea," Downer.

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