WASHINGTON – Pledging flexibility in trying to get North Korea (search) to end its nuclear weapons (search) programs, the Bush administration on Wednesday said there was "a remarkable similarity of views" among nations joined with the United States in the effort.
"The differences are being exaggerated," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said of reports of discord with South Korea and China over tactics being used in trying to reopen joint negotiations with North Korea.
Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) returned Tuesday from Japan, China and South Korea, all parties to the negotiations, with no sign North Korea was ready to return to the table soon.
"The thrust of the trip was from all of us how to get them back to the table, how to press forward as soon as possible," Boucher said. "And that was one where we and the Japanese and the South Koreans and Chinese share, I think, a remarkable similarly of views."
In Seoul on Tuesday, however, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon said the United States and its partners "must come up with a more creative and realistic proposal so that North Korea can come to the negotiating table as soon as possible."
Earlier, the official New Chinese News Agency released a comment by Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing saying "we wish the U.S. side would go further to adopt a flexible and practical attitude on the issue."
But Boucher on Wednesday said, "We do understand the need in negotiations to be creative and flexible. We are prepared to go back to the table and listen to what the North Koreans might have to say about our proposal."
And, Boucher said, "we are prepared to discuss that proposal with other governments at the bargaining table."
The United States has offered North Korea written assurances that there is no intention of a U.S. attack. Also, as part of a package to stop North Korea's programs, Japan and South Korea might offer economic incentives once the talks make headway.
The Central Intelligence Agency estimates that North Korea already has one or two nuclear weapons, and some U.S. intelligence analysts say North Korea may have as many as six.