U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday she would not put a time limit on talks to end North Korea's nuclear program, but that the onus is on Pyongyang now to produce some results. The Chinese-sponsored six-party talks are due to resume in Beijing next Monday after a break of more than a year. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
The Chinese-sponsored six party talks have been underway, in fits and starts, since 2003 with little to show in terms of concrete results.
While dismissing the idea of setting a deadline for a final agreement, Secretary of State Rice says it is time for North Korea to demonstrate its commitment to an accord, especially after its nuclear test in October that drew U.N. sanctions.
"I don't think anyone would ask us that we set a firm deadline by which if we can't do this then the talks end," said Condoleezza Rice. "But I do think there is an expectation in the international community that these talks are not for the sake of talks, that indeed North Korea needs to - particularly after its nuclear test - needs to demonstrate that it is in fact committed to de-nuclearization."
Rice spoke at a news conference capping a day-long meeting of top U.S. and Australian foreign affairs and defense officials that focused on Asian regional security issues including Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he agreed with Rice that talks for the sake of talks are pointless, and that it is time for some results.
Downer paid tribute to what he termed the vigor of China's efforts to restart the talks, and suggested that China, which has long been North Korea's main aid provider, has become as frustrated as other participants by Pyongyang's defiant posture:
"The fact that China has supported two Security Council resolutions, not least Security Council resolution 1718 which imposed sanctions on North Korea - if you'd have asked me three years ago whether I thought China would do that, I think I would have suspected they wouldn't," said Alexander Downer. "So there has been quite a constructive and dramatic evolution of Chinese diplomacy in terms of dealing with the North Korean issue, not least of course egged on by the missile testing and the nuclear testing this year."
Pyongyang said it would return to the talks at the end of October, only days after being hit with the U.N. sanctions package that among other things bans exports to North Korea of military technology, and luxury goods favored by the communist country's leaders.
The six-party talks, including Russia, Japan and South Korea as well as the United States, North Korea and host China produced a statement of principles for an agreement in September 2005 but broke down only two months later.
Under that framework, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear ambition in exchange for aid and security guarantees from the other parties. In her comments here, Rice called it a full program of incentives including increased political contacts with Pyongyang perhaps leading over time to normal relations.