WORLD> Asia-Pacific
US-DPRK talks hinge on renewed six-party process
Updated: 2009-10-14 21:44

BEIJING: The United States will not meet directly with the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) until Pyongyang commits to rejoining six-nation disarmament talks and abides by commitments to dismantle its nuclear programs, a top US diplomat said Wednesday.

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US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said Chinese officials told him they believe DPRK agreed to return to the six-party process during a visit earlier this month by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

It wasn't clear, however, how firm that supposed pledge was or whether Pyongyang intended on following through, said Campbell, the State Department's top Asia policy official.

"Diplomacy with DPRK is very challenging and sometimes it's difficult to know exactly what's going to transpire in terms of your interactions with Pyongyang," Campbell told reporters in Beijing.

"The Chinese indicated that they think they heard from DPRK that they are prepared to accept that framework. But again, we will have to test that, explore that and see if that is indeed the case," he said.

DPRK has recently reached out to the US and South Korea following months of tension over its nuclear and missile tests earlier this year. In April DPRK announced that they would never return to that format and that they were expanding their nuclear force. The last round of talks were held in December in Beijing.

But reports earlier this month said leader Kim Jong Il told Wen that his government might return to the stalled six-nation negotiations depending on the outcome of direct talks with the US.

The disarmament talks involving DPRK, South Korea, the US, China, Russia and Japan were last held in Beijing in December.

Uncertainty about the North's intentions — and what sort of commitment would satisfy Washington — appear to presage weeks or months of additional diplomacy before any talks are held.

"The United States will not entertain direct negotiations between the United States and DPRK absent a six-party commitment," Campbell said.

"Second, we must really insist that DPRK accepts and abides by the commitments they have made in formal six-party framework commitments to the denuclear steps on the Korean peninsula as amplified in 2005 and 2007 agreements," he said. "So we're going to need to see DPRK accepting those provisions for us to move forward over the course of the next several months."

Campbell said Chinese officials told him Kim had been "very actively involved in every aspect of the diplomacy," apparently defying speculation that he had been sidelined due to illness.

Underscoring the new level of coordination between Beijing and Washington on DPRK, he said Chinese officials DPRK that the US would be prepared to hold an initial bilateral meeting that would "lead rapidly to a six-party resumption of talks."

He said the six-party format would allow for any number of bilateral, trilateral or other types of meetings, but that the framework was essential. There was complete agreement between Beijing and Washington on that point, he said.

During his meetings in Beijing, Campbell said he would also seek greater coordination with Beijing on issues involving Afghanistan, Pakistan, Myanmar and Iran, as well as strengthened bilateral military-to-military contacts.

"It is incumbent on the United States and China to take steps to build trust and confidence on a range of issues, not just on the financial or economics side," he said.

On military issues, measures were needed to "avoid crises and unintended miscalculations on either side," Campbell said.