BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday he is hopeful that the successful conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran will send a positive message to North Korea to restart negotiations on its own atomic program.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, Kerry said he believed an Iran agreement could have "a positive influence" on North Korea, because it would show that giving up nuclear weapons improves domestic economies and ends isolation. He stressed, though, that there was no way to tell if North Korea's reclusive leadership would be able to "internalize" such a message.
"I am sure Foreign Minister Wang would join me in expressing the hope that if we can get an agreement with Iran, ... that agreement would indeed have some impact or have a positive influence" on North Korea, Kerry said.
Although Wang did not appear to respond, Kerry explained that an Iran deal could help in showing North Korea how "your economy can do better, your country can do better, and you can enter into good standing with the rest of the global community by recognizing that there is a verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization for weaponization, even as you can have a peaceful nuclear power program."
"Hopefully that can be a message, but whether or not DPRK is capable of internalizing that kind of message or not, that's still to be proved," he said, referring to North Korea by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
International negotiators are rushing to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran by the end of June under which Iran's program would be curbed to prevent it from developing atomic weapons in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions that have crippled its economy.
Nuclear talks with North Korea, which has already developed atomic weapons despite previous attempts to forestall it, broke down three years ago as it has continued atomic tests and other belligerent behavior, including ballistic missile launches.
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and is now believed to have at least 10 such weapons despite some of the toughest international sanctions in existence. It conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013, and U.S.-based experts forecast that it could increase its nuclear arsenal to between 20 and 100 weapons by 2020.
Kerry travels on Sunday to South Korea, where North Korea will be a major topic of discussion.
He said the United States will continue to work with its partners "to make it absolutely clear to the DPRK that their actions, their destabilizing behavior is unacceptable against any international standard."