U.S. officials say time is running out for North Korea to re-join six nation talks aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis. They also urge China to do more to persuade its neighbor to return to the negotiating table.
Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Washington is getting impatient waiting for North Korea to rejoin the six party talks, which have been stalled since last year.
"Clearly, diplomacy is a tool, not an end here," he noted. "And what we have to do is achieve results. And I would say that we have to start achieving results soon. Now, I do not want to put a deadline on it, but clearly, this cannot go on forever."
The six nations involved in the talks include the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
In testimony to a House International Relations subcommittee Thursday, Mr. Hill said Washington made what he called a "fairly comprehensive" proposal to address North Korea's energy needs and provide conditional security assurances. He said the U.S. offer was made at the last round of six-party talks nearly a year ago, but has not been discussed because the talks have not resumed since then.
In answer to repeated questions by subcommittee members about U.S. willingness to meet with North Korea bilaterally, Mr. Hill pointed to a meeting between American and North Korean officials in New York earlier this month. He said the emphasis was on discussing what he described as the "monumental" issue of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons, as opposed to the format of the talks, which he called a "small" issue.
"Recently, we conveyed some of these points directly, in bilateral context, with North Korean diplomats, in New York, to make sure there was no misunderstanding and to establish the fact that if need be, we will talk to them bilaterally,"he added. "But we are not going to talk to them bilaterally as a way to undermine the overall six-party process. This is not a U.S.-North Korean issue. This is an issue between North Korea and the world, as represented by those five other parties."
Meanwhile, the U.S. official emphasized that Washington believes China, as the host of the six-party process, has a responsibility to see it succeed.
"They ought to deliver the participants to the table," he said. "They have not done that with North Korea. We are in contact with the Chinese rather continuously on that precise subject. We have made it very clear that we need to get North Korea to the table and we expect the host of the talks to be able to do that. How they do that, we are not going to tell them how to do it. But I would agree with you that there is enough influence there that they should be able to convince a country that they call a very close friend, that they should be able to convince a very close friend to come to the table. And they have not done it."
Mr. Hill said he believes the stakes are very high for the Chinese, as well. He said if Beijing fails to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table, then that could also mean the failure of the entire six-party process.