- Associated Press - Thursday, September 16, 2010

BEIJING | The United States sees no signs that North Korea is ready to meet Washington’s conditions for rejoining talks aimed at dismantling the rogue regime’s nuclear program, so the U.S. will continue to enforce sanctions, an American envoy said Thursday.

Ambassador Stephen Bosworth said the U.S. also will keep trying to get the North back to the negotiating table, even while maintaining financial and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang, which is suspected of building a nuclear bomb.

“We continue to pursue basically a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, we continue to enforce the sanctions which have been put in place over the last year or more, but simultaneously we remain open to dialogue and constructive engagement,” Mr. Bosworth, in Beijing for two days of meetings with Chinese officials, told a news conference.

Pyongyang pulled out of the talks last year to protest international criticism of a prohibited long-range rocket launch. It further escalated tensions by conducting a nuclear weapons test, drawing a rebuke from Beijing and sanctions from the United Nations.

Prospects for resuming the negotiations - which also involve South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia - dimmed even further after the sinking of a South Korean warship in March that an international investigation blamed on a North Korean torpedo.

Tensions over the incident appeared to ease somewhat Thursday, when North Korea proposed it conduct another investigation into the sinking with the U.S.

Mr. Bosworth said for the talks to restart, North Korea must make good on its earlier promises. Those include allowing international verification that it is dismantling its nuclear programs.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday that Mr. Bosworth held substantive talks with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and China’s envoy to the talks, Wu Dawei, though she offered no details.

China hosts the talks and is eager to see them start again, hoping that will increase stability in its communist neighbor and burnish Beijing’s image as a responsible participant in regional diplomacy.

Pyongyang is also eager to see the talks restart because it is in dire need of financial assistance after recent floods, a botched currency reform and the suspension of aid from South Korea and others after the North’s last nuclear test, Jilin University professor Wang Sheng wrote in an editorial appearing in the official China Daily newspaper on Thursday.

“Hence, the DPRK’s top priority is to make efforts for the resumption of the six-party talks, because they could restore the flow of foreign assistance to it,” Mr. Wang wrote, using the initials for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.

However, Mr. Wang warned Pyongyang is unlikely to return to the negotiating table unless the U.S. lifts financial sanctions, agrees to meet with the North one-on-one and offers a formal guarantee that it will not use military force against the DPRK.

In an op-ed published Wednesday in the New York Times, former President Jimmy Carter said he detected a desire for new talks from discussions with North Korean officials during a recent visit to Pyongyang to free an American held there for allegedly entering the country illegally.

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