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US Envoy: N. Korea Inclined to Rejoin Nuclear Talks


US envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth says officials in Pyongyang told him the communist state 'would like' to return to Chinese-sponsored six-party talks on its nuclear program though no final agreement was reached. The State Department confirmed that Bosworth gave North Korean officials a letter from President Obama for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Bosworth, in his first press appearance since his return Tuesday from his mission to North Korea and the other countries involved in the nuclear talks, said his discussions in Pyongyang had been quite positive and businesslike.

He said the North Koreans continue to support their 2005 agreement in principle to scrap their nuclear program, including weapons, in return for aid and other benefits, and seem inclined to rejoin the negotiations. However, he said more discussions may be needed to confirm Pyongyang's return to the bargaining table.

"They have agreed as to the importance of the six-party process. They've indicated they would like to resume the six-party process," he announced. "They have agreed on essential nature of the joint statement of 2005. The other participants in the process see the situation in the same way. We all want to get back to the negotiating table. But when and how that might come about is something I just can't answer right now," he said.

Map of Pyongyang, North Korea
Map of Pyongyang, North Korea

Bosworth's visit to Pyongyang was the first official contact between the two governments since President Obama took office in January signaling a readiness to engage the reclusive communist government.

The breakdown of the six-party talks a year ago was followed by belligerent North Korean rhetoric and a second nuclear test last May. But Pyongyang has lately sounded a more conciliatory tone and restored contacts with neighboring South Korea.

Bosworth, a retired senior U.S. diplomat and academic, said he stressed in Pyongyang the benefits that would accrue to North Korea if it completed the disarmament process, including an end to the country's political isolation and a role in new regional security arrangements.

"I was conveying very directly to the North Korean leadership a vision for the future which would be a lot different than the present or the past, and ways in which we could improve both our bilateral relationship and improve North Korea's overall relationships within northeast Asia, always provided that they are prepared to move toward the goal of denuclearization," he added.

Bosworth did not meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and would not discuss reports he had given Pyongyang officials a letter from President Obama for Mr. Kim.

But State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly later confirmed delivery of the message, telling reporters it did not differ in substance from the administration's public appeals for Pyongyang to rejoin the nuclear talks.

"I think one can feel very confident that it concerned what our very simple agenda was for the visit of Ambassador Bosworth, and that to get North Korea to come back to the six-party talks," he said.

Kelly said he was unaware of any North Korean response to the Obama message thus far.

Bosworth said the next step in the process will be further consultations with China and the other participants, South Korea, Japan and Russia. He said he and North Korean officials did not discuss a second Pyongyang visit for the U.S. envoy but did not rule out the possibility.