North Korea yesterday called for an early resumption of six-party nuclear talks “without preconditions,” but South Korea said its neighbor must first suspend its atomic activities.
Pyongyang and Washington have agreed to hold further dialogue, a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry said, after last week’s visit to New York by a senior official from the North.
The North “remains unchanged in its stand to resume the six-party talks without preconditions at an early date” and comprehensively implement a 2005 denuclearization deal, the spokesman told the North’s official news agency.
Pyongyang walked out of the negotiations in April 2009, a month before it carried out its second atomic weapons test.
However, last month the chief nuclear negotiators from the two Koreas held surprise talks in Bali on the sidelines of a regional security conference.
And on Thursday and Friday, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan met the US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth for talks in New York.
It was the first high-level contact since Bosworth visited Pyongyang in December 2009.
The New York talks were “sincere and constructive,” the North’s spokesman said.
“Both sides recognized that the improvement of the bilateral relations and the peaceful negotiated settlement of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula conform with the interests of the two sides and agreed to further dialogue,” the spokesman said.
Under a six-party deal in September 2005 the North agreed in principle to scrap its atomic weapons program in return for economic aid and major security and diplomatic benefits.
However, the agreement eventually broke down, amid accusations of bad faith by both sides.
In November the North revealed an apparently operational uranium enrichment plant, potentially giving it a second way to build atomic weapons in addition to its plutonium-based activities.
South Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-lac said the North must take concrete action on denuclearization before the six-party talks could resume.
“We cannot go to six-party talks when [the North’s] nuclear programs are up and running,” he told reporters yesterday, adding it was “too ambitious” to expect the forum to reopen this autumn.
Wi said his Bali meeting with his counterpart from the North was “quite cordial,” but there was no kind of breakthrough or tangible outcome.
The enriched uranium program was a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and “has to be addressed and stopped,” Wi said.
The US said on the “path is open” to better relations if the North shows a firm commitment to disarmament efforts.