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US Envoy on N. Korea Appeals to Pyongyang to Return to Talks

The Obama administration's special representative for North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, says the United States and its allies are prepared to take the steps necessary to address what he calls a growing threat from North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. But in testimony to a Senate panel on Thursday, Bosworth expressed hope that the situation could be resolved diplomatically and called on Pyongyang to return to disarmament talks.

In the wake of North Korea's recent nuclear test and the launching of several short-range missiles, U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States will do what is necessary to defend its security and that of its allies.

"The United States and our partners in the region will need to take the necessary steps to assure our security in the face of this growing threat," said Stephen Bosworth. "In the interest of all concerned, we very much hope North Korea will choose the path of diplomacy rather than confrontation."

Bosworth said the Obama administration is committed to finding a diplomatic resolution of the issue, even as the United Nations Security Council moves to increase sanctions on Pyongyang over its nuclear test.

He expressed hope that North Korea would return to six-party disarmament talks that include Japan, South Korea, Russia and China as well as the United States. He even sounded a note of optimism.

"I think that if we remain patient and persevere in our policy, that the chances of eventual progress are good," he said.

Bosworth reiterated that the United States remains open to bilateral talks with North Korea within the context of the six-party framework. But he underscored that the United States would not accept North Korea as a nuclear-weapons state.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the U.S. approach to North Korea would have a far-reaching impact.

"How we deal with North Korea this time around will have grave implications, not just for maintaining peace and stability in northeast Asia, for alliances with South Korea and Japan, but it will particularly have an impact with our ongoing nonproliferation efforts with respect to Iran and any other would-be nuclear power," said Senator Kerry.

On the issue of the two U.S. journalists sentenced by a North Korean court to 12 years of hard labor, Bosworth said Washington is exploring "all possible ways" to bring about their release on humanitarian grounds.