The Washington Times - September 2, 2009, 02:51PM

The Obama administration signaled Wednesday that it might agree to bilateral talks with North Korea as an incentive for Pyongyang to return to six-country negotiations on its nuclear program.

In a statement announcing a trip to Northeast Asia by the U.S. envoy for talks with the North, Stephen Bosworth, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said that Mr. Bosworth will “discuss the role of bilateral talks with North Korea within the context of the six-party process.”


The North refuses to come back to the negotiating table but wants separate direct talks with the United States. The Obama administration has resisted stand-alone talks so far, but it appears to be exploring options that would help both sides to save face.

The envoy left Washington on Wednesday and is expected to visit Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing. “His goal is to explore how best to convince North Korea that it must live up to its obligations under the September 2005 joint statement and take irreversible steps toward complete denuclearization,” Mr. Kelly said.

In addition to the United States and North Korea, the other participants in the six-party talks are Japan, China, South Korea and Russia.