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U.S. Supports North Korea's Return to Six-Party Talks

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2005 – Defense Department officials joined Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush in welcoming North Korea's announcement that it plans to rejoin talks focused on eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula.

But, like other U.S. officials, they emphasized that North Korea's return, while welcome, must include a preparedness to take meaningful steps toward dismantling its nuclear programs.

North Korea announced July 9 that it plans to return to the so-called Six-Party Talks, which it abandoned last February after announcing it had nuclear weapons.

The North Korean government had expressed an interest in dealing directly with the United States on the issue, but U.S. officials insisted that North Korea poses a regional problem and that its Asian neighbors must be part of any solution.

To date, representatives from the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and both Koreas have conducted three rounds of talks in an attempt to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. The next round of talks is scheduled for the week of July 25 in Beijing.

Rice, speaking in Beijing July 10 during the first day of a four-nation Asian visit, called the North Korean announcement "welcome news" but emphasized that they "are only a start" and not and end in themselves. "It is not the goal of the talks to have talks; it is the goal of the talks to have progress," she said.

"We've made very clear that the issue now is for North Korea to make the strategic choice to give up its nuclear-weapons programs," Rice said. "This is not just the concern of the United States; this is the concern of all of North Korea's neighbors."

During a June 10 press conference at the White House, Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun reaffirmed their commitment to keeping the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free. The Six-Party Talks "are essential to saying to (North Korean dictator) Mr. Kim Jong-il that he ought to give up his weapons," Bush said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in a keynote speech delivered June 4 at the Asia Security Conference in Singapore, said North Korea's nuclear claims and its withdrawal from the Six-Party Talks had destabilized the region. "(North Korean capital) Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions threaten the security of the region, and because of their record of proliferation, it threatens the world," Rumsfeld said.

Korean and Japanese defense ministers at the conference joined Rumsfeld in calling for North Korea's return to the talks.

Yoon Kwang Ung, the Korean minister for national defense, said the Republic of Korea will not "tolerate a nuclear weapons development program by the North Koreans under any circumstances whatsoever," emphasizing that the North Korean nuclear issue "must be peacefully resolved through dialogue."

"The immediate and unconditional return of North Korea to the Six-Party Talks is of the utmost importance and is a first step toward North Korea becoming a responsible member of the international community," agreed Yoshinori Ohno, the Japanese minister for national defense.

Ohno said the countries involved will "have to make sincere efforts to urge North Korea to open its doors, keep its promises and observe international rules."

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