U.S. Welcomes North Korean Decision To Return to Six-Party Talks

By Stephen Kaufman
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington - President Bush welcomed North Korea’s announcement that it will return to multilateral talks about its nuclear program and said the United States would be sending teams to the region to make sure the upcoming talks, which could resume before the end of 2006, are effective.

Speaking at the White House October 31, the president thanked the Chinese government for its role in convincing North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks, which involve North Korea, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan and the United States, and thanked the other parties to the talks for agreeing to return to discussions with Pyongyang over its nuclear activities and other issues.

“We'll be sending teams to the region to work with our partners to make sure that the current United Nations Security Council resolution [1718] is enforced but also to make sure that the talks are effective,” he said.

The United States is seeking North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program and nuclear weapons “in a verifiable fashion in return for a better way forward for her people,” the president said.


White House press secretary Tony Snow said North Korea’s decision is “a real step forward,” and the Bush administration hopes that, ultimately, North Korea will renounce all its nuclear activities in a verifiable way.

By doing so, “you'll avoid the threat of an arms race in the region; you'll avoid the threat of having a destabilized Korean Peninsula; [and] you're going to have the opportunity for the North Koreans to take advantage of economic, political and cultural offerings that have been made by the other parties to the talks,” Snow said.

He said that China, North Korea’s “number one trading partner and … number one supplier of energy,” persuaded the North Koreans to return to the talks.  China has “made it pretty clear that they're very unhappy with the way the North Koreans have been behaving,” he said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said China “made some fundamental decisions” in the wake of North Korea’s October 9 nuclear test, which resulted in the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718. (See related article.)

 “[Y]ou saw that manifested in their vote in support of a very, very tough U.N. Security Council resolution,” he said, as well as Chinese officials’ discussions with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about seriously implementing the resolution and cooperation in the region.

Resolution 1718 bans trade with North Korea on all materials with direct or dual-use applications for weapons of mass destruction and bans the sale or purchase of battle tanks, warships, armored combat aircraft, attack helicopters, missiles or missile systems.  It also prohibits nations from using their territories or allowing their citizens to provide North Korea technical training, advice, services or assistance on weapons of mass destruction.  The resolution also requires nations to freeze the funds, assets and economic resources of individuals or businesses connected with North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and impose a travel ban on individuals and their families connected with weapons of mass destruction programs.

McCormack added that State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan's visit to Pyongyang, which concluded October 26, “was another manifestation of how seriously the Chinese government took this issue.”


McCormack said North Korea has said it is returning to the Six-Party Talks “without precondition,” and the United States hopes there will be a meeting before the end of 2006, adding that the venue would “probably be in Beijing.”

The Bush administration expects North Korea will be participating “with a seriousness of purpose,” and would use the September 19, 2005, joint statement offering North Korea incentives in return for ending its nuclear activities as a starting point for the talks. “The question then becomes: How do you implement that joint statement, which provides an excellent framework for moving forward?” McCormack said.  (See related article.)

The trilateral discussions in Beijing between North Korea, China and the United States were arranged by the Chinese government and included a bilateral follow-up discussion between the lead U.S. envoy, Ambassador Christopher Hill, and his North Korean counterpart.

Speaking in Beijing October 31, Hill, who is the State Department’s assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, described the tone of the series of meetings as “very positive,” and “businesslike,” and included a “really in-depth discussion of the issues.”


Hill said the North Koreans want the United States to address financial measures such as U.S. sanctions that were imposed as a result of alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering activities by Pyongyang.  (See related article.)

He said the United States agreed to “find a mechanism within the six-party process to address these financial measures,” adding there probably would be a working group set up to discuss the issue.

“I emphasized this has to be done consistent with legal obligations, but also consistent with their cooperation [to get out of these illicit activities],” he said.

Hill also said the United States and North Korea agreed that the purpose of the Six-Party Talks will be to implement the September 19, 2005, joint statement “and not just to have more talks.”

He said he told the North Koreans that the events of recent months, such as North Korea’s tests of a nuclear device and ballistic missiles, “have certainly set back the process, and made the process difficult.”

He said the United States and other countries are working to prepare for the resumption of talks, including finding ways to ensure that the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is “complete and verifiable, [and] irreversible,” and to address a plan put forward by South Korea for a conventional electricity plant.

A transcript of Bush's remarks on North Korea is available on the White House Web site.

A transcript of Hill's remarks is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policy, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.