Seoul downplays expectations of US-NKorea talks

AP News
Posted: Nov 29, 2009 3:10 AM

A rare direct meeting between North Korean and American officials next week is unlikely to produce a major breakthrough in the standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program, media reports cited a senior Seoul official as suggesting Sunday.

President Barack Obama's special envoy, Stephen Bosworth, is to travel to Pyongyang on Dec. 8 to discuss restarting the six-nation talks aimed at disarming the North. It would be the first one-on-one talks between Pyongyang and Washington since Obama took office in January.

However, the prospect of achieving a major outcome from the dialogue was "dim for now" as there has not been any sign that Pyongyang will return to the negotiating table, Yonhap news agency quoted a senior South Korean official it didn't identify as saying. The North pulled out of nuclear talks in April to protest international criticism of a long-range rocket launch. It then conducted its second-ever nuclear test in May and has pushed for direct talks with the U.S.

The North still insists it will rejoin the talks only after "hostile relations" between Pyongyang and Washington turn into "peaceful relations," the official said.

YTN television network carried a similar report, saying it was unlikely Bosworth would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during his trip.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed that a senior Seoul official made such remarks in a meeting with South Korean reporters but didn't provide further details.

The U.S. has said it is willing to engage the North in direct talks but has stressed they must lead to an end of Pyongyang's boycott of the disarmament talks that also involve China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.