U.S. envoy to visit Pyongyang to restart six-party talks

08:43, December 07, 2009      

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U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth is reportedly due to fly to Pyongyang Tuesday in an effort to persuade the country to return to the stalled six-party talks.

Pyongyang has not yet confirmed the news. But if Bosworth's trip comes true, he will be the first high-ranking official of the Obama administration to visit the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and his visit will be Washington's first formal contact with Pyongyang since Obama took office early this year.

Unlike the Bush administration's policy to label the DPRK as part of the "axis of evil," the Obama administration has indicated its readiness for direct talks with Pyongyang.

After the DPRK test-fired a satellite and conducted its second nuclear test in spring, the United States made sharp criticism against and imposed sanctions on the DPRK, yet it has kept the door of dialogue open.

Pyongyang adopted dual tactics. It withdrew from the six-party talks in response to the UN sanctions and refused to conduct dialogues with Washington, blaming it for continuing its hostile policy toward the Asian country.

But relations between the two countries took a favorable turn in July. Later that month, a spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry said there would be other ways of dialogue to solve the current political standoff.

In August, Pyongyang welcomed former U.S. President Bill Clinton and granted special pardon, in a goodwill gesture, to two American female journalists who were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegally entering the DPRK.

In an apparent effort to push for dialogue with Washington, DPRK nuclear envoy Ri Gun visited the United States in October and met in New York and in California with Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy to disarmament talks.

Pyongyang also stressed the necessity of direct talks with Washington, saying that "only if the hostile relations between the two countries were settled and confidence built, the denuclearization could make meaningful progress."

Therefore, Bosworth's visit does not come as a surprise, given Pyongyang's eagerness for direct dialogue with Washington, and the Obama administration's intention to leave open the door to dialogue.

While dialogue between the two countries brings hope to the resumption of six-party talks, the DPRK said it would return to multilateral talks including six-party talks, depending on the outcome of the one-on-one talks with the United States.

The U.S. side has reiterated that Bosworth's upcoming visit is meant to coax the DPRK back to the six-party talks, and make it honor its denuclearization commitment.

"Current sanctions will not be relaxed until Pyongyang takes verifiable, irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier in October.

The United States and South Korea have agreed to offer the DPRK a "grand bargain" package of political and economic incentives for a one-step, irreversible dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear program, as proposed by South Korean President Lee Myung Bak during his visit to the United States in September.

The DPRK has insisted that the two countries should focus their talks on Washington abandoning its hostile policy and removing nuclear threat to the DPRK. It also demanded that Washington guarantee DPRK's security, and respect its sovereignty and dignity.

As a concrete step, Pyongyang argued, the United States must replace the existing armistice with a peace treaty and normalize its relations with the DPRK. Pyongyang would not return to multilateral talks including six-party talks unless these conditions were fully met.

Source: Xinhua
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