Clinton eyes bringing N. Korea back to negotiating table on nuclear program
In South Korea, which she visited Thursday, fears persist that the US will move forward on ties even if the North resists verifying disablement of its weapons.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered South Korean leaders firm assurances Friday of American solidarity against North Korea. She stopped short, however, of saying how the United States will respond if North Korea stonewalls on demands for a protocol for verifying disablement of its nuclear weapons program.Skip to next paragraph
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Mrs. Clinton preferred, over a lunch with South Korea's conservative President Lee Myung-bak and a separate session with Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, to stress the need "to look for ways" to bring North Korea back to six-nation talks on its nuclear program.
As a sign of US eagerness to get North Korea to resume the talks, last held in December, she announced the appointment of Stephen Bosworth, former ambassador to South Korea, as special envoy on North Korea. Mr. Bosworth, who took over as dean of Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy after leaving here in 2000, said after a trip to Pyongyang two weeks ago that he found North Korean officials receptive to returning to the table despite the harsh language of recent statements denouncing President Lee and his policies.
Bosworth's appointment, in the view of some analysts, has the potential to raise the tempo of negotiations. He in effect replaces Christopher Hill, who is leaving his post as assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific after accompanying Clinton on a trip that took her first to Japan and Indonesia before coming here. They flew Friday evening to Beijing, the host of the off-again, on-again six-party talks for the past four years.
Bosworth, unlike Mr. Hill, will be able to focus solely on North Korea. Paik Hak-soon, a North Korean expert at the Sejong Institute here, believes that appointment of a special envoy – with a one-issue mission similar to that of Richard Holbrooke on Afghanistan and Pakistan, or George Mitchell on Israel and the Palestinian territories – would be "a signal to North Korea" of the new level of seriousness with which the US views the process.
"As the senior representative for North Korean policy," said Clinton, Bosworth's mission will be "to stem the risk of North Korean ambitions."
In looking for how to achieve that goal, she added, the US would be "dealing with the government that's in place right now."