Secretary of State Colin Powell says U.S. and North Korean officials will meet later this month to resume the stalled political dialogue between the two sides. Pyongyang had proposed a resumption of talks several weeks ago.
Secretary Powell made the comments to reporters traveling with him Wednesday to the G-8 foreign ministers meeting in western Canada, saying U.S. diplomats will meet the North Koreans sometime later this month, but without mentioning where, or at what level, the talks will be held.
The talks have been expected since late April, when the Bush administration accepted, in principle, a North Korean proposal that it send an envoy to Pyongyang to resume bilateral contacts that have been in a virtual freeze since the end of the Clinton presidency.
Mr. Powell said the U.S. side in the talks will seek an end to Pyongyang's exports of missile technology, a less-threatening posture for North Korean conventional military forces, improved monitoring of food-aid distribution in the hunger-ridden country, and compliance by the North with international nuclear safeguards. The U.S.-North Korean discussions are expected to follow a three-way coordination meeting on North Korean policy involving senior U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials set for next Monday and Tuesday in San Francisco.
In a policy address Monday night in New York, Mr. Powell said that in working with Japan and South Korea, the Bush administration is prepared to take "important steps" to move the U.S. relationship with Pyongyang "toward normalcy" though that depended on North Korean behavior.
He had sharp criticism in the speech, to the private Asia Society, about a Pyongyang leadership that he said had "squandered" the country's resources on a massive offensive military capacity, and had chosen to produce missiles and weapons of mass destruction instead of food for a starving population.
But he said the next generation of North Koreans should not have to live under such conditions of deprivation. "We want the people of North Korea to be exposed to a whole wide world of ideas," he said, "and we want them to join the growing community of free peoples. That is why we whole-heartedly support South Korea's "sunshine policy." And to move this process forward, we believe that Pyongyang should quickly live up to the promises it made to Seoul. It should establish industrial zones. It should implement military confidence-building measures. It should reunite more separated families [and] extend the rail link to the South."
The United States and North Korea had been reportedly close to an agreement curbing Pyongyang's missile program at the close of the Clinton administration, but relations stalled after President Bush took office and ordered a review of the relationship.
Though Mr. Bush included North Korea along with Iran and Iraq in what he termed an "axis of evil" in his State of the Union message in January, officials said the United States was still ready for unconditional dialogue with Pyongyang.
Contacts between the two sides have not entirely ceased, with U.S. diplomats having occasional meetings over the past months with members of North Korea's U.N. delegation in New York.