The top United States delegate to multilateral talks on North Korea's nuclear programs says nuclear weapons are no answer to the country's problems and that returning to the negotiating table is the only way forward for Pyongyang.
Following discussions with his Chinese counterpart, Ambassador Christopher Hill said Thursday that nuclear weapons will not help address North Korea's severe economic problems.
But, he says, successful six-way talks could.
"They have to deal with a future that is pretty bleak indeed. When you look at the problems that North Korea faces - in every measurement of human endeavor, whether it is per capita income, or health care, or infrastructure - all of these issues are for North Korea very difficult problems," he said. "And, without being too rhetorical about it, it seems to me pretty obvious that North Korea cannot use nuclear weapons in any way to deal with what the threats they have are."
North Korea said last month it was indefinitely withdrawing from six-nation talks, which also involve South Korea, Japan, and Russia, saying it already had nuclear weapons and would make more. Days later, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a Chinese envoy he might be willing to return to talks, if unspecified conditions were right.
Ambassador Hill went on to say that he and China's top delegate, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, are fully committed to reaching a deal with North Korea over its nuclear programs.
Mr. Hill stresses that if talks resume, they will be of the highest possible quality.
"We stressed the need to approach these with a businesslike, flexible manner, to use some imagination, to deal with the problems at hand, at the table," he said. "So, I would say that we are very much ready."
The United States and its partners in the talks are trying to get North Korea to live up to international agreements it has signed to remain free of nuclear weapons. Pyongyang says it needs a nuclear deterrent against what it calls a hostile U.S. policy.
Ambassador Hill says the U.S. has no aggressive intention toward Pyongyang.
"We have absolutely no intention of invading North Korea, and they should know that," he said.
Moon Chung-In is the chairman of South Korea's Presidential Committee on Northeast Cooperation Initiative. Mr. Moon urges the United States to better understand the mentality of North Korean leaders, and strive for a deal with Pyongyang.
"For North Korea, more than any other countries in the world, face-saving rhetorics are very, very important -sometimes more important than the substance per se. I really hope the United States would give attention to North Korea in its own context," he said.
Mr. Moon cites President Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China as an example of Washington engaging a partner with which it had serious differences, for the sake of a greater good.
North Korea this week also has said it is no longer bound by its self-imposed moratorium on missile tests. The 1999 freeze on tests came during talks with the administration of President Clinton. In 1998, the North test fired a medium-range missile that flew over Japan, sparking new concerns in the region about its weapons programs.