News / Asia

US: North Korea Must Change Behavior Before Six Party Talks Can Resume

New Mexico State Governor Bill Richardson of the US (left) is welcomed by an unidentified North Korean official upon his arrival at Pyongyang Airport, Dec 16, 2010
New Mexico State Governor Bill Richardson of the US (left) is welcomed by an unidentified North Korean official upon his arrival at Pyongyang Airport, Dec 16, 2010

The White House says there will be no resumption of six-party talks with North Korea until Pyongyang stops "belligerent actions."  

Twice during Tuesday's White House news briefing, spokesman Robert Gibbs was asked about North Korea's offer, confirmed by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson, to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors back to the country.

Richardson, who is governor of of New Mexico, and also a former U.S. congressman, has visited North Korea several times, serving as an unofficial intermediary.

Saying he had no update on any North Korean offer to Richardson, Gibbs said Pyongyang knows what it needs to do to make it possible for the six-party talks to resume, namely to transform its rhetoric into action. "They are aware of what they need to do, and commitments to do so are not what we are interested in.  We are interested in them living up to those obligations," he said.

Belligerent actions by North Korea, Gibbs said, provide the international community with no confidence that Pyongyang is "even remotely ready" to resume talks about its nuclear program.

Gibbs said the United States remains fully supportive of South Korea's actions, including its recent live fire military exercise that followed a North Korean artillery attack on a South Korean island.  He made clear where the Obama administration stands on resuming the six party talks. "We are not going to get a table in a room and have six party talks just for the feel good notion of having six party talks.  When and if the North Koreans are ever serious about living up to their obligations then we can think about re-starting six party talks," he said.

The strong White House statements came as former U.S. ambassador Richardson told reporters in Beijing that he believes North Korea realizes it has gone too far in defying the world. "I noticed a pragmatic attitude on their part, a more realistic attitude, a view perhaps that they had moved a little too far down the precipice, and that it was time to come back and pull back and start negotiations again," he said.

The White House has said there are no plans for Richardson to meet with President Obama about his just-completed visit to Pyongyang.  At the State Department, spokesman P.J. Crowley said it's possible Richardson could brief U.S. officials, though no meeting was scheduled.

Crowley had this response when asked whether the U.S. sees Richardson's visit to North Korea as useful. "We and others have had conversations with North Korea before.  The real question is what will North Korea do," he said.

In his statement to reporters in Beijing, Richardson said South Korea legitimately carried out its recent military exercise.  But he commended Seoul for its restraint, and Pyongyang for not retaliating.

Richardson said Pyongyang needs to act on the promises it made to him to defuse tension, including a pledge to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors back.

Pyongyang abandoned the multi-nation talks more than 18 months ago.  North Korea revealed to a visiting U.S. scientist that it has developed an advanced uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon.

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