Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States is pursuing "every diplomatic option" to try to resolve the simmering crisis over North Korea's recent nuclear moves. Mr. Powell held talks Friday with South Korean Foreign Minister Yoon Young-Kwan, who urged the Bush administration to take a "bold initiative" with regard to Pyongyang.
Mr. Powell says the United States has not been distracted by the Iraq war, and is exploring a variety of options and venues for defusing the crisis with North Korea in close coordination with South Korea and other regional powers.
The secretary spoke to reporters after a meeting with Mr. Yoon that was dominated by the nuclear issue and plans for the first U.S. visit by South Korean President Roh Moon-Hyun sometime in May.
In a Washington speech before seeing Mr. Powell, the South Korean foreign minister proposed that the Bush administration take a "bold initiative" to North Korea, along the lines of former U.S. President Richard Nixon's opening to China in 1971 that ended decades of hostility.
With Mr. Yoon at his side for a brief news conference, Mr. Powell said his colleague had presented what he termed a "roadmap" of things the United States might do with respect to North Korea and said it was an "interesting approach" which U.S. officials will be examining.
As to the call for a "bold initiative" with Pyongyang, the secretary said much can be done provided the North is willing to address U.S. concerns about its nuclear activities, ballistic missile exports and other issues. "The kind of ideas and options that the minister mentioned in his speech this morning are on the table it seems to me, once we deal with the issue of nuclear proliferation, the proliferation of weapons, and some of the other activities that are ongoing within North Korea with respect to their military expenditures," he said. "I think a lot is out there waiting for North Korea once they realize their obligation to comply with the international agreements and bilateral agreements they have previously entered into with respect to nuclear weapons."
Senior officials here have said the Bush administration was preparing a wide-ranging overture for better relations with Pyongyang last year, before North Korea admitted having a covert uranium enrichment program in October, and then took other steps in violation of international nuclear commitments.
Pyongyang has demanded bilateral talks with the United States and a non-aggression treaty with Washington before any roll-back of its nuclear moves.
The Bush administration ruling out a diplomatic reward for North Korean misbehavior wants the issue addressed in a multi-lateral basis with other regional powers including China, Russia and Japan.
In his remarks to reporters, Mr. Powell said the United States continues to seek a multi-lateral forum and challenged a reporter's contention there has been no progress toward such talks, though he declined to elaborate.
Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly told members of Congress earlier this week there may have been "some softening" of North Korea's stance against multi-lateral talks
The Washington Times newspaper said Friday a U.S. proposal for a six-nation summit had been conveyed to North Korea by China, though there was no comment on that from officials here.