The United States on Wednesday expressed support for a new Chinese effort to get North Korea back to the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks on its nuclear program. The State Department said North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's recommitment to the negotiating process should be followed by action.
The State Department says it "absolutely supports" China's latest interaction with North Korea, and says it is confident that Pyongyang will hear the same message from China that it heard from the United States in December on the need to restart negotiations.
North Korea's chief negotiator on the nuclear issue, Kim Kye Kwan, arrived in Beijing on Tuesday - a day after the North Korean leader was said to have told a Chinese envoy that he is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea agreed in principle in 2005 to scrap its nuclear program in return for aid and diplomatic benefits from other participants in the six-party talks. But the negotiations broke down at the end of 2008 and the diplomatic climate worsened with North Korean nuclear and missile tests last year.
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley says Kim Jong Il's recommitment to a nuclear-free Korea echoes comments North Korean officials made to U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth during a visit to Pyongyang in December.
Crowley says it is time for Pyongyang to give the words meaning by returning to the negotiating table. "We obviously take note of the public statements by North Korea over the past 24 hours. These are similar to what North Korea said to us back in December when our delegation was in Pyongyang. So North Korea is saying the right things -- that the six-party process should resume and that it remains committed to denuclearization. But the right words must be followed by action. Words by themselves are not sufficient," he said.
Crowley says the United States has long valued China's role as chair of the six-party talks.
He says the two powers view the North Korean situation very similarly, and he says he hopes China will convey a "very firm" message on the need to return to the bargaining table.
Along with North Korea, the United States and China, the six-party talks include South Korea, Japan and Russia.