The White House says there will be no direct talks with North Korea over ending its nuclear weapons program, unless such talks occur within the framework of broader regional negotiations. A North Korean diplomat at the United Nations says direct talks with the United States would show that Washington is changing what he called its hostile policy toward North Korea.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says there will be no direct talks outside a six-nation diplomatic initiative because the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons is a regional issue, not an issue solely between Pyongyang and Washington.
Within those six-party talks, Mr. McClellan says there remain opportunities for North Korean and American diplomats to speak privately.
"North Korea has ample opportunity to visit directly with us in the context of the six-party talks, and they have had ample opportunity in the past to do so," he noted.
U.S. and North Korean diplomats have met privately on the sidelines of a previous session of the six-party talks in Beijing.
The Bush administration is trying to keep the focus on those six-party talks which involve the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia because President Bush believes that is the best chance for a binding agreement ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program.
Mr. McClellan says there were direct talks in the past, when the Clinton administration reached a 1994 agreement with North Korea which North Korea then violated by continuing to pursue nuclear weapons.
"The bilateral approach of the previous administration did not work," he said. "North Korea violated that agreement. They did choose to defy the international community in that sense. That is why this president thought that the best way to approach this is through the six-party talks."
President Bush has said it is important to reach a regional agreement on North Korea's nuclear weapons because if Pyongyang were to violate that agreement, it would be breaking its word not only with the United States but with its most important neighbors as well.
North Korea announced Thursday that it has nuclear weapons and is suspending its participation in the six-party talks. The country's foreign ministry said North Korea developed weapons to protect itself from the United States.
The Bush administration says it has no intention of invading North Korea and has offered to make that promise in writing as part of a statement within the six-party talks.
Vice President Dick Cheney met with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon at the White House Friday. In the previously arranged meeting, Mr. McClellan says the men had a good discussion on a wide range of issues and reaffirmed their shared view that North Korean must end its nuclear weapons program.