- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005

North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs are a ‘dead loser’ that will have to be given up if Pyongyang wants peace with its neighbors, a top State Department official said yesterday.

Facing sometimes sharp questioning, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Christopher Hill said at a Capitol Hill hearing that ‘one way or another, [the North Koreans] are not going to have these systems.’

‘The real issue for them is what are the terms under which they’ll give them up,’ Mr. Hill told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But Mr. Hill acknowledged that the North’s yearlong boycott of regional talks on its nuclear programs ‘casts increasing doubts’ on whether Pyongyang is ready to take the steps needed to reach a deal with the United States and its allies.

‘Our policy is to pursue a diplomatic solution, but we need to see results from the diplomacy,’ he said.

The third and last round of the so-called ‘six-party talks’ on the North’s nuclear programs was held last June in Beijing. The parties are the United States, North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Despite recent hints by both North Korea and China that the talks may resume soon, no date has been set and Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, the U.S. special envoy to the talks, said recent direct contacts with North Korea had produced ‘no forward movement’ toward resuming talks.

The Bush administration and its allies accuse the North of violating pledges not to pursue nuclear programs. At the June 2004 session, the U.S. side offered what Mr. Hill and Mr. DeTrani called a sweeping package of economic, energy and security offers if the North abandoned all its nuclear programs.

But several lawmakers accused the Bush administration of sending mixed messages in the talks, thus undermining the U.S. negotiating strategy.

The U.S. policy ‘has been paralyzed by internal policy divisions,’ said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and the panel’s ranking minority member.

‘Not only have we been unable to constrain North Korea’s nuclear programs, but we’ve also distanced ourselves from our South Korean allies,’ he said.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said progress to date in the six-party talks ‘has been very limited,’ even as Pyongyang claims to be increasing its arsenal.

But Mr. Hill warned that arguments over the six-party format or negotiating tactics could play into the North’s hands, suggesting, ‘This is a time when we have to be a little stubborn.’

The North Koreans ‘are testing to see whether we’re going to get into endless arguments with our partners, whether we’re going to start negotiating with each other and with ourselves, and to sweeten the pot for them.’

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