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2010/02/13 05:53 KST
U.S. sees no immediate sign for 6-way talks reopening: State Dept.

By Hwang Doo-hyong
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- The United States said Friday that it does not see any immediate sign that North Korea will return to the six-party talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs.

   "We certainly would like to see such a sign," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. "I'm not aware that we've seen one at this point."

   Crowley was asked if North Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, will soon visit the U.S. for another round of bilateral meetings to facilitate the reopening of the nuclear talks, which Pyongyang has boycotted since early last year due to U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

   "We have no plans for such a visit at this point," he said. "There's no discussion that we're having with North Korea about a visit at this point."

   The spokesman, however, did not preclude a trip by Kim.

   "We don't rule out other meetings, but we believe firmly that the next meeting that U.S. representatives and others should have with North Korea is through a formal six-party meeting," he said.

   The first high-level contact since Obama's inauguration was made in December when Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, visited Pyongyang, but he failed to obtain the North's commitment to the resumption of the talks.

   Kim Kye-gwan is currently is Beijing to discuss, by his account, the six-party talks and a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

   The North Korean official accompanied Wang Jiarui, head of the international liaison department of the Chinese Communist Party, on Wang's return to Beijing Tuesday, after a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, the fifth such meeting for the Chinese official since 2004.

   While meeting with Wang, the North Korean leader reaffirmed his nation's commitment to denuclearization, but also stressed the sincerity of relevant parties to resume the six-party talks -- an apparent reference to the North's demand for a peace treaty and the removal of sanctions as preconditions.

   Washington has repeatedly called on Pyongyang to appear at another round of the nuclear talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia, before discussing those issues.

   Pyongyang is said to be feeling the pinch from the U.N. sanctions.

   U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's special envoy, Lynn Pascoe, said in Beijing earlier in the day that North Korea is "not eager" to return to the six-party talks due to international sanctions.

   Pascoe just concluded a four-day trip to Pyongyang, the first bilateral contact since 2004, to discuss the North's nuclear ambitions, as well as providing humanitarian aid to the impoverished North.

   He said the North Koreans are "not happy with sanctions," adding they are suffering from a severe food shortage due to the suspension of international food aid early last year.