NKorea ready for N-talks, says US envoy

SEOUL: US President Barack Obama’s envoy on North Korea said today that officials in Pyongyang agreed on the need to resume nuclear disarmament talks but did not say when they would return to the negotiating table.

Stephen Bosworth sounded a hopeful note, calling his three-day visit to North Korea “very useful” and citing a “common understanding” with his North Korean counterparts on the importance of the denuclearisation process.

The six-nation talks have been stalled for more than a year, during which time the reclusive communist regime has conducted a nuclear test and ballistic missile test-launches, and claimed it restarted its atomic


“It is certainly our hope, based on these discussions in Pyongyang, that the six-party talks can resume expeditiously and that we can get back to the important work of denuclearisation,” Bosworth told a news conference in Seoul after returning from Pyongyang.

The veteran diplomat’s talks in North Korea were the first high-level contact between Washington and

Pyongyang since Obama took office in January pledging to reach out to former adversaries. Six nations — the two Koreas, the US, Russia, Japan and China — had been negotiating since 2003 on a step-by-step process to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear program.

North Korea walked away from those talks earlier this year in anger over the international criticism of its ambitions to develop rocket technology, widely seen as a test its long-range missile delivery system.

After months of rising tensions and inflammatory rhetoric, North Korea began reaching out to the US and

other participants in the six-party talks in recent months. Former US President Bill Clinton travelled to the reclusive nation in August on a private humanitarian mission to negotiate the release of two detained American journalists. He sat for three hours with Kim Jong Il — the North Korean leader’s first public appearance with a high-profile figure in a year — in a meeting that appeared to break the ice between the two nations, which do not have diplomatic ties. Bosworth said today that he did not request a meeting or meet with Kim Jong Il. North Korea’s state media said Kim was travelling outside Pyongyang during the three days of Bosworth’s visit.