- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2001

The United States said yesterday it was pleased that Russian President Vladimir Putin urged North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, visiting Moscow over the weekend, to visit Seoul, and said the North may be "touching bases" with Russia and China before re-engaging with the South.
"We do note with pleasure that the Russian president stressed to Chairman Kim the importance of making a visit to South Korea, resuming the North-South dialogue," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
But he stopped short of proposing a more significant role for Moscow as a mediator between the two Koreas.
"Without knowing the complete details of the conversations, I don't know that I would characterize the Russian role in any particular way at this point," he said. "But one of the elements that we had encouraged them to do was to raise this issue of resuming the North-South dialogue."
He noted that Washington welcomes the "international engagement of North Korea with other nations" and has watched Mr. Kim's trip to Russia "with great interest."
Following South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's historic June 2000 visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean leader agreed to go to Seoul this year, but no specific arrangements had been made.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright became the highest U.S. official to visit North Korea in October, but President Clinton decided the time for a presidential visit had not come.
Pending a policy review last winter, the Bush administration put on hold Washington's North Korea diplomacy, but has since said it was ready to resume talks.
Except for a few low-level meetings with North Korean delegates to the United Nations in New York, no significant developments in the dialogue have occurred and the United States is still awaiting official response from Pyongyang.
"As for our own part, we are prepared to undertake serious discussions with the North Koreans without preconditions," Mr. Boucher said.
Mr. Kim met with Mr. Putin after crossing most of Russia by train a journey that threw the Russian rail system into chaos, with numerous delays and canceled departures.
During his talks in the Kremlin, Mr. Kim also pledged to observe a moratorium on nuclear testing until 2003.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said last month that Moscow could play a "useful" role in nudging Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.
"I think it would also be very useful if President Putin and the other Russian leaders would point out to Chairman Kim the importance of resuming discussions with the United States," he said during a visit to Seoul.

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