The Bush administration is ruling out talks at any level with North Korea until it agrees to dismantle the covert nuclear weapons program U.S. officials say Pyongyang admitted to last month. The diplomatic freeze applies even to technical discussions with the North Koreans.
Mid-level diplomats of the two sides met at least once on the sidelines of the United Nations after North Korea acknowledged the uranium-enrichment project to visiting U.S. envoy James Kelly in early October.
But State Department spokesman Philip Reeker says the United States stayed away from a technical meeting on nuclear issues that included North Korea this week in New York, and does not intend to engage Pyongyang again until it renounces nuclear weapons ambitions. "We share the same view with our allies, which is that there's only one option for resolving the issue," said Philip Reeker. "And that is that North Korea needs to eliminate its nuclear weapons program in a visible and verifiable manner."
This week's New York meeting, to which the United States would have normally sent State and Energy Department experts, was organized by KEDO, the international consortium helping to implement the 1994 U.S.-North Korean "agreed framework" nuclear accord.
Under terms of that deal, North Korea agreed to shut down suspect nuclear reactors in exchange for the building, by KEDO, of two western-designed nuclear power plants and interim supplies of fuel oil.
While the Bush administration considers Pyongyang's uranium-enrichment effort to have violated the 1994 framework, its implementation at least for the time being continues, with North Korea receiving its scheduled fuel-oil deliveries this month.
At the same time, however the United States has said North Korea can expect no new benefits from the west for stopping the enrichment project, a point underlined again Friday by spokesman Reeker. "North Korea must understand that we will not bargain, or offer inducements to convince the regime there to live up to the existing international commitments and agreements that they've already signed," he said.
The State Department's arms-control chief, John Bolton, said earlier at a Washington policy seminar that the North Korean nuclear project is a "cause for grave concern" and a problem with global, and not just regional, implications.
However, Mr. Bolton said that the Bush administration wants to resolve the matter peacefully through, as he put it "the exertion of maximum diplomatic pressure."