WASHINGTON – The Bush administration on Monday shrugged off North Korea's explanation for delaying nuclear weapons negotiations and accepted a two-week postponement in the six-nation talks.
"We are prepared to go back the week of Sept. 12 and we are ready," the State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
The precise date for the talks will be set by China and North Korea, McCormack said.
The talks are aimed at persuading North Korea to give up nuclear development. In exchange, North Korea is to receive energy supplies and a U.S. pledge not to attack.
North Korea, in announcing it would delay its return to negotiations for two weeks, blamed U.S. military exercises and appointment of a special envoy on human rights as the reasons for the postponement. The Bush administration has announced that Jay Lefkowitz (search), a former adviser to President Bush, would be in charge of promoting efforts to "improve the human rights of the long-suffering North Korean people."
McCormack dismissed both of North Korea's complaints.
He said the U.S. exercises with South Korea were an annual event that posed no threat to North Korea. And he said Lefkowitz' appointment was mandated by Congress and that Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were strongly in favor of the assignment.
"The appointment of Lefkowitz does not have anything to do with the six-party talks," McCormack said.
He referred to the negotiations the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia are holding with North Korea.
"We're prepared to engage in six-party talks in a constructive manner," McCormack said. "We hope that all the other parties, including North Korea, come back to the table and resume the businesslike atmosphere that they demonstrated during the most recent session of the talks."