North Korean leader Kim Jong-il
Washington, 7 June 2005 -- The administration of President George W. Bush said late yesterday that North Korea told the United States it will resume the talks, but did not say when it would be ready to return to the table.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said North Korean representatives made the commitment during a meeting on 6 June in New York with U.S. counterparts at Pyongyang's mission to the United Nations.
Although these New York talks appear to have restarted the larger talks, McCormack said they should not be viewed as a substitute for the full six-party negotiations. They include North Korea's neighbors: China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea.
McCormack said the six-party talks are the best way for North Korea to get "the respect that they have asked for" and the aid they may need in their current economic crisis.
Yesterday's announcement was particularly timely. Bush is to meet on 10 June with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun at the White House.
The New York meeting included Ambassador Pak Gil-yon and Deputy Ambassador Han Song-ryol. The United States was represented by State Department envoy Joseph DiTrani and the agency's senior Korean affairs officer, James Foster.
McCormack said that during the 6 June meeting, the U.S. delegation said it would end efforts to get the UN to impose punitive sanctions against North Korea.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hinted at the conciliatory U.S. move during a visit to Bangkok, Thailand, yesterday. Rumsfeld said the United States has set no deadline for urging the UN to impose sanctions.
Despite the U.S. threat, it is widely believed that the UN probably could not impose them. China, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, opposes sanctions in general and so probably would veto the effort.
North Korea has said it would view any sanctions as the equivalent of declaring war. There have been news reports recently that the six-party talks may resume. And Asian leaders have been expressing similar hopes that the New York meetings may achieve some progress.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Jiancha called the meeting positive "in every respect." And in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed his belief that North Korea sees six-party talks as its best hope for resolving the matter.