The Obama administration remains adamant that it is opposed to renewed six-nation nuclear talks on North Korea until Pyongyang takes concrete steps toward giving up its nuclear arsenal and infrastructure, a senior Obama administration official said yesterday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that China’s top negotiator, Wu Dawei, arrived in Pyongyang Monday as part of a renewed push by Beijing for continued talks.
However, both the U.S. and South Korean governments see no signs that North Korea is willing to negotiate the dismantling of its nuclear weapons and production facilities, a precondition for any further talks.
"What the Chinese are doing is trying to restart the talks," said the official. "Our interest is not in restarting the talks. It’s in denuclearizing North Korea."
Denuclearization for the United States is diplomatic code for a complete dismantlement of nuclear arms and related facilities by North Korea.
However, the prospect of relaunching nuclear talks is unlikely, based on recent public statements by the North Korean government.
"The central problem remains that the North seem further away than ever from denuclearization," the official told the Free Beacon.
The United States continues to pursue a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear problem after the talks broke down in 2008.
However, any return to negotiations will require North Korea to show its sincerity by taking several steps before any talks are held, according to diplomatic sources.
South Korea’s government is demanding that North Korea reveal all its nuclear weapons and production facilities, including both known facilities and hidden sites.
Additionally, North Korea needs to fully disclose details about its newer highly enriched uranium program. Its plutonium production program is better known.
International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspectors also must be allowed to return to North Korea to monitor the program.
In public statements in state-run North Korean media outlets, North Korea has said in recent weeks that it has no intention of giving up its nuclear arsenal.
Reports from Pyongyang also have stated categorically that the six-party talks are dead and that the government there has no intention of rejoining the talks.
A turning point occurred in February when North Korea conducted its third underground nuclear test. In response, China’s government became more concerned about growing instability on the Korean peninsula and launched the new push for renewed talks.
China is North Korea’s closest ally and trading partner. China’s main concern, according to U.S. officials, is stability on its border. Beijing is less interested in denuclearizing North Korea and sees renewed international talks as a way to boost regional stability.
Wu’s arrival in Pyongyang coincided with talks in Washington between U.S. and South Korean officials on North Korean nuclear issues.
Seoul’s chief envoy for nuclear issues, Cho Tae Yong, held talks with Glyn Davies, the State Department’s special envoy for North Korea, and other defense and national security officials. Japan’s nuclear envoy is expected to take part in the discussions later this week.
Wu held talks in Washington last week and is pushing ahead with the idea of restarting the stalled six-nation talks that include China, the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.
Wu unsuccessfully sought ways to convince Washington to loosen its position on a new round of talks.
Japan is interested in continuing nuclear talks as a way to restart discussion on North Korea’s intelligence operations decades ago to kidnap Japanese nationals and bring them to North Korea to training its agents.
Japan is said to be closely aligned with the United States and South Korea on the need to denuclearize North Korea.
Russia remains a minor player in the talks but is expected to lean toward backing Beijing and Pyongyang.
The nuclear diplomacy comes as U.S. officials said there are new signs that North Korea has restarted a plutonium reactor at its Yongbyon facility near Pyongyang.
Satellite photos showed steam rising from the reactor, which had been shut down earlier in response to international pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear activities.
U.S. and South Korean officials signed a joint strategy document last month that outlines how both countries will cooperate to counter the North Korean nuclear threat.
The strategy is called "tailored deterrence" and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin signed the pact on Oct. 2.
"This strategy establishes a strategic alliance framework for tailoring deterrence against key North Korean nuclear threat scenarios across armistice and wartime, and strengthens the integration of alliance capabilities to maximize their deterrence effects," a joint communique on the strategy states.
The United States currently applies a so-called extended deterrence policy to protect South Korea and Japan from the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack.