U.S. Awaits North Korean Response on Resumption of Nuclear Talks

Washington - The government of North Korea must make the next move in efforts to put the Six-Party Talks on eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula back on course, says Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the United States' chief negotiator.

Hill spoke to reporters November 30 as he departed Beijing following two days of discussions with North Korean and Chinese officials, and again on a stopover in Tokyo, where he briefed his Japanese counterpart.  Hill said he had given the North Koreans ideas for moving the stalled nuclear talks forward and hoped to have a response from them soon.

"The ball is very much in the North Korean court," he said.

Hill expressed hope that the talks would resume in December, but said he was not concerned about setting a date.  He stressed that the United States wanted to make real progress and hoped to see results as early as the first session. 

"The purpose of the Six-Party Talks is not to talk," he said.  Rather, he said, the purpose was the eliminate nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.

The talks, which involve the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and North and South Korea, have been at an impasse for more than a year.  The parties reached preliminary agreement on a statement of principles in September 2005, with North Korea agreeing to end its nuclear programs in return for security guarantees and other assistance.  But Pyongyang refused to return for further discussions when it learned that the U.S. Treasury Department had imposed "special measures" on Banco Delta Asia SARL, located and licensed in the Macau Special Administrative Region of China.  The Treasury Department designated the bank as a "primary money laundering concern" under the USA PATRIOT Act and said it had assisted the North Korean government in corrupt financial activities. (See related article.)

In ensuing months, the regional situation deteriorated as Pyongyang test- launched a series of missiles in July and claimed to have conducted a nuclear test in October.  In response to that test, the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1718, which imposed strict sanctions. (See related article.)

North Korea agreed to return to the Six-Party Talks in late October, following a diplomatic push from China.  (See related article.)

This led to a flurry of discussions among U.S., Chinese, Japanese, Russian and South Korean officials on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Hanoi, Vietnam, in mid-November. (See related article.)


Asked if sanctions came up in the Beijing discussions, Hill said he thought the North Koreans were "realistic" on where matters stood and added that he had "made pretty clear" that the issue of sanctions was tied to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

"There is no future for the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's formal name] as long as they are on this nuclear track," Hill said.  "They've got to get out of the nuclear business and back into the NPT," he said, referring to the country's 2003 decision to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Hill said he had told North Korean officials that "everything is possible with denuclearization, but nothing's possible without denuclearization."

"We're not interested in having a situation where they pretend to denuclearize and we pretend to believe them," he said.  "They've got to denuclearize.  That is the nature of the deal."  

Transcripts of Hill’s remarks in Beijing and remarks in Tokyo are available on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies in the region, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.