US: Time for 'strategic patience' with NKorea

AP News
Posted: Dec 12, 2009 6:38 AM

The special U.S. envoy to North Korea said Saturday there is no immediate plan for more talks with the reclusive communist nation and urged patience from the countries seeking the North's nuclear disarmament.

Stephen Bosworth, in Tokyo to brief Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada about his three-day meeting with North Korean officials this past week, said the situation remained "difficult" and members of stalled disarmament talks should stick together to make a breakthrough.

Bosworth, who had briefed officials in South Korea and China in earlier stopovers, called his Pyongyang visit "very businesslike, very candid, forward-looking." But he said how and when the six-nation negotiations would resume is yet to be resolved.

"We shouldn't expect things to start moving dramatically because of the latest development," Okada told reporters after meeting with Bosworth. "We still need to be patient."

North Korea walked away from the talks _ which involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, the U.S. and Russia _ earlier this year following international criticism of its ambitions to develop long-range rocket technology. It vowed never to return.

It conducted a nuclear test in April and restarted its nuclear facilities, drawing widespread condemnation and tighter U.N. sanctions. North Korea called it an issue between itself and the U.S. and demanded bilateral talks.

After Bosworth's visit, North Korea stopped short Friday of making a firm commitment to return to the negotiating table, but its reaction raised hopes that the disarmament process could resume.

The North said it understood the need to resume the nuclear negotiations and would work with Washington to resolve remaining "differences."

"This may be the time to exercise strategic patience," Bosworth told reporters in Beijing earlier Saturday. "Everyone, including North Korea, may need to sit quietly for a bit and see what happens."

Bosworth's talks were the Obama administration's first high-level contact with North Korea. He said after leaving the North on Thursday that the two sides reached a "common understanding" on the need to restart the nuclear negotiations.

North Korea echoed that Friday, adding the meetings "deepened the mutual understanding, narrowed their differences and found not a few common points."

The two sides also reached an understanding on the importance of implementing a 2005 disarmament pact, North Korea's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by its official Korean Central News Agency.

The 2005 pact calls for North Korea to end its nuclear programs in exchange for economic aid, security assurances and diplomatic recognition.

Analysts said thorny issues remain unsolved and it was too early to call Bosworth's mission a success.

"North Korea will only return to the talks after the U.S. offers it a face-saving move or substantial rewards," said Lee Sang-hyun of the Sejong Institute, a private security think tank outside Seoul.

Bosworth is to head to Moscow on Sunday.


Associated Press writers Cara Anna in Beijing, Kwang-tae Kim and Jae-soon Chang in Seoul, Ben Feller in Oslo, Norway, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.