Lawmaker: North Korea nuke talks look likely
SEOUL — North Korea seems poised to return to six-way nuclear talks later this month though the communist country remains determined to proceed with its nuclear-power program, a situation that raises concerns among U.S. leaders, according to a U.S. congressman who visited Pyongyang last week.
“North Korea at this time wants the right to retain a nuclear program of one kind or another," U.S. Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa, said during a news conference Sunday morning in Seoul.
Leach, chairman of a House subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific affairs, traveled to North Korea’s capital with Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif. They had an estimated 25 hours’ worth of meetings with North Korean officials during their five-day visit, according to the Associated Press.
The visit came as six-nation talks about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are to resume Sept. 12.
Last month, officials from China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States met with North Korea to discuss its nuclear ambitions.
North Korea has insisted it should be allowed to develop power through nuclear technology, an issue that left the discussions at a stalemate. U.S. officials are worried Pyongyang might also use it to develop weaponry.
Further talks were then postponed by North Korea, which criticized the United States for its humanitarian efforts toward the North — which the North Koreans feel are unnecessary — and because of an annual U.S.-South Korea military exercise during the past two weeks.
Still, Leach said Sunday, he was encouraged by the seriousness and directness from North Korean leaders he met last week. “And I thought that boded well for the process of continuing the talks,” he added.
“There’s a pretty strong commitment to the week of Sept. 12,” Leach said. “But there’s never certainties on these measures. … We stressed that delay was not in anyone’s interest.”
Leach also invited North Korea to consider a few cultural exchanges in the future. He invited the North Korean wrestling team and a North Korean poet to visit his home state of Iowa.