SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Thursday that his country has informed North Korea of a South Korea-U.S. joint approach aimed at jump-starting the stalled talks on the North's nuclear weapons program, but that Pyongyang hasn't yet given a response.
In Washington earlier this month, Roh and President Bush agreed to formulate a "joint comprehensive approach" aimed at bringing the recalcitrant North back to the so-called six-party talks that also involve China, Russia and Japan.
Roh told MBC television in a program to be aired later Thursday that Seoul delivered the proposal to Pyongyang before his trip to Washington but there has been no response yet from the North. A transcript of the comments was provided by Roh's office.
Roh declined to give any details of what was contained in the proposal. Seoul's top nuclear envoy returned Thursday from a stay in Washington where the proposal was discussed, and was to meet Friday in Seoul with China's main envoy to the nuclear talks.
"We continue to proceed with this proposal without giving it up," Roh said. "We still see a possibility in this and we continue to proceed because it is not necessarily negative that no response has been rendered."
North Korea has refused to come to the nuclear talks since last year, demanding Washington to lift financial restrictions against a bank where it held accounts. The U.S. has launched an investigation into the bank, Macau-based Banco Delta Asia, accusing it of complicity in alleged counterfeiting and money laundering by the Pyongyang regime.
Seoul has previously indicated that Washington should lift the financial restrictions, with chief presidential security adviser Song Min-soon saying that the assets there could be unfrozen as part of a process where both sides take steps to resolve the impasse.
Roh said he discussed the U.S. investigation against the Macau bank during a meeting with U.S. Treasury Henry Paulson during his Washington trip. He said Paulson explained that the investigation into the bank, announced in September 2005, wasn't being dragged out to antagonize the North but simply takes time.
"Nonetheless, I do hope that the investigation would be completed at an early date because the six-party talks are stalled over the issue," Roh said.