WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (Yonhap) -- Wendy Sherman, nominated to become the State Department's third highest-ranking official, said Wednesday she still believes that Washington should use both "carrots and sticks" in dealing with North Korea, a task that requires "enormous persistence."
In her confirmation hearing at the Senate, she faced questions on her role in the Clinton administration in formulating policy on the communist nation, a policy that conservative lawmakers view as a failure.
"I think we learned what every administration since has learned -- working with North Korea is very frustrating, extremely difficult," she said. "They are elusive, they do not keep their commitments, they are often hostile, they are oppressive to their people."
Sherman said she recognizes that solving the North Korea problem is "very, very tough, takes enormous persistence and that there are no good choices."
Wendy Sherman speaks at her confirmation hearing at the Senate in Washington on Sept. 7. (Yonhap)
Sherman, who was adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, worked from 1997 to 2001 as then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's counselor and doubled as President Clinton's policy coordinator on North Korea.
Her policy on Pyongyang remains politically controversial as Republican lawmakers claim that it was much too focused on granting "carrots" to the recalcitrant North.
"I believe absolutely in clarity, in strength, the importance of sticks as well as carrots, of putting all the pieces on the table," she said, citing the Obama administration's firm approach toward Pyongyang.
Unlike differences among Bush administration officials on ways to deal with North Korea, Sherman said, there has been clarity in the policy of Obama and Secretary Clinton.
She described it as "a two-pronged approach," adding the secretary has been very clear that Washington will not talk for the sake of talks, and talks make no sense until North Korea shows in a verifiable way it has kept the commitments it made in 2005.
In the September 2005 deal in the six-way talks, the North agreed to abandon its nuclear program in return for political and economic incentives.
The six-party talks, launched in 2004, are stalled due to the North's missile and nuclear tests and ensuing U.N. sanctions. The other participants in the negotiations are South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Sherman pointed out that Pyongyang had a choice to join the international community and normalize relations with the U.S. and others.
"So far, North Korea has pretty much chosen the second path," to continue its isolation as a weak and failed state, she said.
The reclusive North recently revealed it has a uranium enrichment program, claiming it is aimed at generating electricity. That is separate from its plutonium program.
Sherman, who will become under secretary of state for political affairs if confirmed, admitted that the North Korea problem has worsened.
"I'm quite clear this is one tough, difficult, thorny problem. We learned some things, but we are in a new environment, in many ways a much tougher environment, and the choices that the president and the secretary have to make are probably even tougher than the ones that we made in the late '90s," she said.
She said Obama will capitalize on her experience on Pyongyang and in other matters if she is confirmed.
"This background has enabled me to develop skills as a negotiator, strategist, trouble-shooter and problem-solver," Sherman said in her opening remarks.
Sherman said it is important to take advantage of "the full range of foreign policy tools."
"These extend from the simple art of persuasion to the persuasive impact of military force and include in between a variety of carrots and sticks," she said.