- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

The United States is not expecting any major breakthrough at next week’s six-party talks hosted by China to end North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program, a senior administration official said yesterday.

“This is a beginning,” the official said and emphasized that the process of convincing Pyongyang to bring its nuclear-weapons activities to a complete and verifiable end would likely be a lengthy one.

“But we do have a certain urgency in resolving” the issue, he said. “We don’t have forever and a day on this issue.”

The official said the Wednesday through Friday meeting in Beijing would consist of “laying out the U.S. position in details and hearing, in a respectful way, the other positions,” but that Washington was not prepared to offer any inducements to bring Pyongyang on board.

“I’m not going in with some package of rewards in anticipation of progress,” the official said.

That did not mean the four other nations involved might not offer some kind of incentives, he said, adding that what consisted of an inducement lay “in the eye of the beholder.”

The talks will place representatives from North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States around the same table, ending a diplomatic tussle with the Stalinist state’s position — at first supported by China — that it would only deal directly with the United States.

“North Korean nuclear matters are not and should not have been seen only as a matter between the U.S. and the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” the official said.

He hailed China’s efforts as “instrumental” in bringing Pyongyang to the six-way talks, saying it highlighted “a new era of U.S.-China cooperation on major international issues.”

Since last October, North Korea has admitted its nuclear-arms program, pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and evicted International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from the country.

With the belief that Pyongyang now has the capability of producing and selling nuclear weapons, the United States is demanding that North Korea cease all its nuclear-arms actions and allow inspectors back in to verify the program has been halted.

“North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is much more than a regional problem, it is a threat really to the security of the world. Moreover, North Korea has been an active exporter of various kinds of weapons in the past, and we’ve come to realize the providing of weapons of mass destruction to those who would do us harm is probably the most active direct threat to the U.S. people,” the official said.

He said the talks would give North Korea an opportunity to reassure the international community of its intentions and eventually open the door to a better relationship with the United States.

“We are ready for a full discussion across and around the table,” the official said.

He said the United States wanted to use the talks to test the depth of Pyongyang’s commitment to abandoning its nuclear-arms designs, but insisted Washington was not expecting to come out of the three-day summit with a number of accomplishments under its arm.

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