US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton named a special envoy for North Korea yesterday, but warned the communist nation that ties with the US would not improve unless it stops threatening South Korea.
Amid a rise in belligerent rhetoric from the North toward the South and signs it may be getting ready to test-fire a ballistic missile, she urged Pyongyang to halt “provocative and unhelpful” gestures and rejoin stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
“North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the United States while insulting and refusing dialogue with [South Korea],” Clinton told reporters at a news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan. “We are calling on the government of North Korea to refrain from being provocative and unhelpful in a war of words that it has been engaged in because that is not very fruitful.”
Clinton, who also received a military briefing on the situation along the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and discussed broader issues, such as climate change and the global economic crisis with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Han Seung-soo, praised Seoul for its democracy and prosperity.
She said that was “in stark contrast to the tyranny and poverty across the border to the North” and commended the “people of South Korea and your leaders for your calm, resolve and determination in the face of provocative and unhelpful statements and actions by the North.”
She declined to comment on intelligence suggesting the North could soon fire a missile, but noted such an act would violate UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which was passed after Pyongyang detonated a nuclear device in 2006.
“The North should refrain from violating this resolution and also from any and all provocative actions that could harm the six-party talks and aggravate the tensions in the region,” Clinton said.
She demanded that the North follow through on promises it made to dismantle and verifiably disable its nuclear weapons program during negotiations with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US last year, saying Washington is not willing to engage with Pyongyang until it does so.
Only then would the Obama administration be willing to normalize ties and negotiate a peace treaty, she said later in a speech to students at Ewha University.
“I make the offer again here in Seoul,” Clinton said. “If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate nuclear weapons, the Obama Administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula’s long-standing armistice agreement with a permanent peace treaty and assist immediately the energy and other economic and humanitarian needs of the Korean people.”
Earlier, Clinton said the new US special representative to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, a former US ambassador to South Korea, would work with South Korea, Japan, China and others to look at ways to get Pyongyang back to the negotiating table and deal with broader policy.
Bosworth will also deal with North Korean human rights and humanitarian issues, she said, praising him as “a capable and experienced diplomat” who will report to her and US President Barack Obama.
En route to South Korea from Indonesia on Thursday on her first overseas trip as the US’ top diplomat, Clinton surprised reporters traveling with her when she spoke candidly about a possible succession crisis in North Korea and its impact on restarting the talks.