U.S. won't enhance N. Korea incentive plan
SEOUL — The United States has no plans to enhance a package of economic incentives for North Korea to persuade the communist country to resume talks about its nuclear ambitions, a U.S. official knowledgeable about the negotiations said Thursday.
Instead, the United States is waiting for North Korea to make the next move back to the negotiating table, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We are waiting for them,” the official said. “We are hoping they see the advantages of coming back to the table. They need to make a decision.”
The Bush administration is intent on seeing North Korea return to the six-party talks, a coalition of nations negotiating with the North about its nuclear weapons program, the official said.
A meeting in June with the members — China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and the United States — showed promise, the official said. Yet the talks stalled this fall after North Korean officials refused to attend a September meeting.
In the past, North Korea periodically has attempted to limit the sessions to the United States and itself. The Bush administration generally has insisted all six parties take part in the talks.
More recently, North Korean officials have said they refuse to continue the talks until the Bush administration changes what they call its hostile policy toward the North. The exact meaning of that accusation remains unclear, the U.S. official said Thursday.
“We seek clarity when they use terminology of that nature,” the official said. “We’ve been very consistent on the issue of the so-called hostile policy: We do not have a hostile policy. ‘Hostile’ is not part of our equation.”
The United States is seeking a “permanent, thorough, transparent” plan from North Korea about dismantling its nuclear technologies, the official said, adding that in return, North Korea could expect economic and humanitarian incentives.
“With de-nuclearization will come a very rich basket of economic and other incentives that would facilitate their economic development,” the official said. “We’re talking about infrastructure issues that speak to their energy sector ... multilateral security assurances which address what they speak about in their concern for security.”
In the past, the Pyongyang regime has demanded it be pulled off the United States’ list of nations believed to sponsor terrorism. On Thursday, the U.S. official acknowledged the talks have included North Korea’s place on the terrorism list as a possible negotiating tool.
“That’s a very major issue,” he said. “Are we there yet now? No ... because we do not have a commitment.”
This week, U.S. envoy Joseph DeTrani visited Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo to spur support for resuming the six-party talks. Departing Secretary of State Colin Powell made a similarly-aimed swing through Asia in October.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency director general said North Korea has enough fuel to create four to six nuclear bombs, The New York Times reported. Previously, analysts predicted the North had enough weapons-grade plutonium to make one or two bombs.
During the six-nation negotiations, however, officials have concentrated more on removing North Korea’s supply of plutonium than on worrying about how many nuclear devices the country has.
The official praised how the IAEA, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, recently handled a review of South Korea’s acknowledgement that scientists here produced a small amount plutonium in 1982 and enriched uranium in 2000. The agency rebuked the South Koreans but did not refer the issue on to the U.N. Security Council.
“It’s a very positive model,” the official said. “The element of transparency and making all information available to the IAEA is a very powerful model that we could encourage the [North Koreans] to follow.”