The United States has formally rejected North Korea's latest call for a mutual non-aggression pact. The State Department said Friday there should be no negotiations with Pyongyang until it rolls back its recent efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Pyongyang has repeatedly called for a non-aggression pact as a way out of the current crisis, the latest such proposal coming Friday from North Korea's ambassador to China.
But briefing reporters, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher again dismissed the idea, saying the issue is not non-aggression but whether North Korea will stop enriching uranium and verifiably dismantle its nuclear program.
"We have no hostile intent toward Pyongyang," he said. "And we are seeking, like others, a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issues. We've also made clear we're not going enter into negotiations in response to threats or broken commitments. And we're not going to bargain or offer inducements for North Korea to live up to treaties and agreements that it has signed. So, as I said, the issue is whether North Korea will verifiably and visibly dismantle its nuclear weapons program that violates previous commitments."
Mr. Boucher said the administration is stepping-up efforts to coordinate its policy approach toward North Korea with friends and allies in the region.
He announced that Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton will visit South Korea, Japan and China later this month a trip that will follow a similar mission to the area beginning late next week by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.
Before he leaves for Asia, Mr. Kelly, the Bush administration's "point man" on North Korea, will also host senior Japanese and South Korean diplomats for State Department talks Monday and Tuesday.
There have been widespread reports of discord, especially between Washington and Seoul, on how to deal with Pyongyang, but spokesman Boucher insisted the parties are in fundamental agreement on how to proceed.
"The point is that we, the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Russians have been working very closely on this, particularly closely with those allies in the neighborhood, the Japanese and the South Koreans," he said. "However you want to interpret one statement one day or another statement another day from the North Koreans, the fact is that we coordinate very closely with our allies. We're all in this together. We're all working together, and we all have very similar and consistent points of view."
Mr. Kelly's mission to Seoul will include talks with South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who has been a strong advocate of engagement with the north and has offered to mediate between the United States and Pyongyang.
Spokesman Boucher would not directly address the mediation offer by Mr. Roh, who takes office February 25. But he said to the extent that anyone has contact with the North Koreans, it is important for them to make the point that "it all begins" with Pyongyang ending its nuclear programs.