The chief U.S. delegate to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program says Pyongyang must get out of the nuclear business as part of any agreement providing it with aid and security guarantees. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill briefed reporters Friday in advance of the scheduled resumption of talks in Beijing next Tuesday.
North Korea has publicly been claiming a right to retain a civilian nuclear program even after scrapping its acknowledged weapons program.
But Mr. Hill says that given Pyongyang's record on the issue, the United States insists on an end to all that country's nuclear activities including, even, a right in principle to build civilian power plants.
At a news briefing in advance of the reopening of the Chinese-sponsored negotiations next week, Mr. Hill said the consensus goal of the talks is a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, and that North Korea's energy needs would be amply taken care of by a South Korean offer to tie the north into its electricity grid.
"What North Korea needs to do is get out of the nuclear business. We've been very clear about that. North Korea, the D.P.R.K., has had trouble keeping peaceful nuclear programs peaceful. And what this agreement tries to do, and what it clearly does, is propose a way forward for the D.P.R.K. economy, including and I would say especially in the area of energy," he said.
The latest round of six-party talks recessed a month ago, amid what U.S. officials said was progress on a proposed statement of principles to govern further negotiations.
Under an American proposal presented a year ago, North Korea would get multi-lateral security guarantees, energy and other forms of aid, and increased diplomatic standing, in return for the verifiable and irreversible end to its nuclear program.
Mr. Hill, who will hold consultations in Seoul before going to Beijing Tuesday, said it remained to be seen whether progress would continue, or whether Pyongyang would toughen its stand or seek to revisit issues that already appeared resolved.
Under questioning, he said the Bush administration's appointment earlier this week of a special envoy on North Korean human rights need not be an issue in the arms talks.
"All countries need take hard look at their own human rights record every day of the year. I think we ought to do that, and I certainly believe the D.P.R.K. should be doing that. I think they have nothing to fear from the naming of a human rights envoy. We have no interest in weaponizing human rights. Human rights is an absolutely legitimate subject when you are talking about bringing a country into the international community," he said.
Former White House aide Jay Lefkowitz assumed the human rights envoy post earlier this week, as mandated by an act of Congress approved last year.
Mr. Lefkowitz caused a stir by telling reporters Thursday donor countries might consider using humanitarian aid for North Korea as a lever on human rights.
However, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a news conference Friday that, as a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not use food as a weapon.