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2009/11/12 11:15 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 80 (November 12, 2009)

*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

U.S. Informs North Korea of Bosworth's Trip to Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea and the United States will hold bilateral talks within the year, as was widely expected, in an effort to find a breakthrough in stalled multilateral talks to end the North's nuclear programs.

   The U.S. State Department announced on Nov. 10 that it notified North Korea of its intention to send Washington's point man on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, to Pyongyang by the end of the year as part of the six-party process.

   But the U.S. State Department said that an exact timing for his North Korea trip had yet to be made. "We have told North Korea that we are prepared for Ambassador (Stephen) Bosworth and a small interagency team to visit Pyongyang at an appropriate time not yet determined," said Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs.

   Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, will likely fly to Pyongyang by the end of the year, the spokesman said. "I would not expect this meeting to take place while the president -- and the secretary are in the region. I would say, as an expectation, sometime between now and the end of the year."

   U.S. President Barack Obama will embark on a nine-day Asian trip on Nov. 12, winding up his tour in Seoul on Nov. 19 after trips to Tokyo, Singapore and Beijing. U.S. officials have said that an announcement on Bosworth's itinerary will come "soon," possibly before Obama's departure.

   Crowley said the proposed visit should focus on a resumption of the multilateral talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. The talks have remained dormant due to U.N. sanctions for North Korea's nuclear and missile tests earlier this year.

   "Ambassador Bosworth's discussions in Pyongyang will take place in the context of the six-party talks," said Crowley. "From our standpoint, the purpose will be to facilitate an early resumption of the six-party talks and to secure North Korea's reaffirmation of the September 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks, including verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner."

   The 2005 nuclear deal calls for the North's nuclear dismantlement in return for hefty economic aid, diplomatic recognition and establishment of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula to replace the fragile armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

   North Korean leader Kim Jong-il recently agreed to return to the six-party talks pending the outcome of expected bilateral talks with the U.S. The North has extended an invitation to Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy.

   Reports said that North Korea has agreed that Bosworth will meet with Kang Sok-ju, North Korea's first-vice foreign minister and the immediate superior of Kim Kye-gwan, head of the North Korean delegation to the six-party talks.

   The two sides also agreed to hold at least a couple of bilateral meetings before Pyongyang returns to the six-party talks, reports said. The agreement was reached at meetings between Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for six-party talks, and Ri Gun, director general of the North American affairs bureau of North Korea's foreign ministry. The two met in New York and San Diego on the sidelines of academic seminars there.

   Ri Gun, the North's No. 2 nuclear negotiator, arrived in New York on Oct. 23 and met with the top U.S. envoy Sung Kim on Oct. 25 before attending a forum in San Diego, California. Both Ri and Kim also attended the Northeast Asia Cooperative Dialogue held in San Diego and held unofficial meetings. Ri and Sung Kim held one-hour talks in New York on Oct. 31, where they apparently discussed conditions for Bosworth's trip to the North. Their meeting was the first government-level talks between the two sides since President Barack Obama took office early this year.

   Crowley said the North's gestures came from successful implementation of international financial sanctions and an overall arms embargo, which Washington believes have effectively cut off revenues from arms sales, the only source of hard currency for the impoverished communist state.

   "We have to believe that North Korea has felt some of that pressure," the spokesman said. "You know, so you've seen a shift in their strategy, the so-called charm offensive that they have engaged in for the past couple of months."

   Crowley warned the U.S. will continue sanctioning the North unless Pyongyang takes substantial steps toward its denuclearization. "But clearly, we are very realistic about our expectations ... the bottom line here is that North Korea has to take affirmative steps towards denuclearization," he said. "We are not going to reward North Korea simply for returning to the six-party talks. We will be looking to see if they are prepared to take the kinds of affirmative steps that they had previously agreed to."

   The spokesman took note of the North's notorious brinkmanship. "North Korea has a history of coming back to negotiations and expecting to be rewarded just for simply coming back, you know, for discussions," he said. "We're not here to talk for talk's sake; we're here to see specific results by North Korea."

   In Seoul on Nov. 11, the South Korean government supported Washington's decision to send Bosworth to North Korea. "The government supports the U.S. decision to seek a visit by special envoy Bosworth to North Korea aimed at a swift resumption of the six-party talks and securing the promise of denuclearization, including the accord from the Sept. 19 (2005) joint statement," Moon Tae-young, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said.

   Moon added South Korea looks forward to the pending bilateral meeting to "contribute positively to the North Korean nuclear stalemate" by bringing the North back to the negotiation table. "South Korea and the U.S. have held close consultations during the process (of seeking the U.S.-North Korean bilateral talks) and will maintain a sturdy alliance in seeking practical progress on the North Korean nuclear issue," the spokesman said
North Korea has often demanded that its nuclear program be handled in the context of global nuclear disarmament and insisted that the U.S. back down from its "hostile" policy. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il agreed to return to the six-party talks pending the outcome of bilateral talks with the U.S. when he met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Pyongyang. The Chinese leader visited the North Korean capital in early October leading a high-powered delegation to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the two countries' diplomatic ties.

   The North quit the six-party talks in April after the United Nations censured its long-range rocket launch. It vowed at the time to restart the nuclear program that it had shut down under six-party pacts. It conducted an atomic weapons test in May, its second since 2006.

   North Korea's foremost goal with the nuclear test was to pressure the Barack Obama administration into starting direct negotiations. Pyongyang believes only bilateral talks can move Washington to normalize relations and lift sanctions against it.

   North Korea watchers interpreted the North's actions as part of its goal of gaining international recognition as a nuclear power and solidifying an internal power succession.