US tries, tries again to revive North Korean talks

US envoy Stephen Bosworth is visiting Beijing, Seoul, and Tokyo, after Pyongyang rejected six-party dialogue and threatened to test another nuclear bomb.

US envoy Stephen Bosworth (l.) was hosted by former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung in Seoul Saturday, during a trip to South Korea, Japan, and China, to try to reopen six-party talks with North Korea.

SEOUL – The latest chapter in the quest for reopening dialogue with North Korea is ending on a distinctly downbeat note.

The US special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, making the circuit from Beijing to Seoul to Tokyo in quest of a strategy to bring Pyongyang back to six-party talks, did not attempt to visit the North but said “we remain committed to … negotiations and dialogue.”

With North Korea vowing never to return to six-party talks, though, the more immediate question may be how to respond if it makes good on its threat to conduct a second nuclear test. Mr. Bosworth’s response was carefully vague.

“There will be consequences,” he warned, without specifying what. “We cannot control at this stage what North Korea does.”

South Korean diplomats were more emphatic. “North Korea won’t be able to take provocative steps with impunity,” said the South’s chief negotiator, Wi Sung Lac. “It will pay the price.”

Mr. Wi seemed wary of the notion of two-way dialogue between the US and North Korea, seen here as a plot to isolate the South, insisting “the six-party process is at the heart of the effort.”

Bosworth, taking off Monday for Tokyo, called on an old friend, Kim Dae Jung, who as president from 1998 to 2003 formed the South’s "Sunshine Policy" vis-à-vis the North. Bosworth got to know Mr. Kim while ambassador here during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Kim’s formula is simple: Cooperation between the US and North Korea, he said in Beijing before seeing Bosworth here, would lead to “a ‘peace regime’ on the Korean peninsula.” The Korea Times noted that the US may prefer “benign neglect” in response to mounting North Korean threats since the UN Security Council condemned its test-firing a long-range missile on April 5.

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