News / Asia

US Official Spells Out Steps For N. Korea Overture

U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman with South Korean 1st Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk-hwan during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 22, 2011.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman with South Korean 1st Vice Foreign Minister Park Suk-hwan during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 22, 2011.

A senior U.S. diplomat visiting South Korea says Washington's new outreach to Burma does not mean it is ready to do the same for North Korea. Last week, President Obama announced that he will soon dispatch Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to the southeast Asian country. In Seoul, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman spoke to reporters on the steps Pyongyang must take for a similar diplomatic outreach.

Sherman says Burma has taken enough steps toward opening its political system to warrant a visit by Secretary Clinton.  Those include freeing some political prisoners, loosening media controls and holding talks with pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy political party.

When asked whether North Korea could expect a similar gesture to improve relations, Sherman said Pyongyang still must take more steps on its own.

"Where North Korea is concerned they still have many steps to take, to see Secretary Clinton come to that country. They could begin by meeting the commitments they have already made," she said.

In 2005, Pyongyang agreed to end its nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid and diplomatic relations. But in 2009, it walked away from negotiations with South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia. Last year, the North revealed that it is also enriching uranium. Pyongyang now says it wants the talks to resume.

But Sherman says Washington and Seoul have made it very clear what North Korea needs to do to re-open dialogue. She says it is up to the North to make the next move.

"They have not yet made all of the commitments they need to, including ending their uranium enrichment program and until they met their commitments of the 2005 communiqué, we will have to wait and see what they are going to do in order for there to be a resumption of the six party talks," she said.

Sherman says, if North Korea shows that it is serious about ending its nuclear weapons program, then anything - including a visit by Secretary Clinton - is possible. But she says there is still a long way to go.

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