BEIJING – Despite North Korea's recent freeing of three American captives, the hardline communist state's leadership appears no closer to reopening a dialogue with the outside, the chief U.S. envoy for North Korea said Friday.
Ambassador Sung Kim said the U.S. and others still believe that six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs are the best way to proceed. Kim said the U.S. would also welcome talking directly with North Korea if there was a possibility of substantive discussions.
However, he told reporters in Beijing at the end of a regional visit that North Korea had ignored the opportunity for discussions offered by the release in October and November of the three Americans.
"Unfortunately, we haven't seen any indication that the release of American citizens is changing North Korea's attitudes or approach on the nuclear issue," Kim said. "On the important question of how we can resume serious negotiations toward denuclearization, so far they have indicated no interest in doing so."
The six-party talks, also including Japan, Russia, China and South Korea, stalled six years ago after North Korea withdrew.
Americans Jeffrey Fowle, Kenneth Bae and Mathew Miller were unconditionally released by North Korea. Bae and Miller left Pyongyang aboard an official U.S. government plane accompanied by U.S. spy chief James Clapper, marking an extremely rare visit to North Korea by an American Cabinet official.
The U.S. and North Korea fought each other during the 1950-53 Korean War and have no diplomatic relations amid continuing tensions between the North and U.S. ally South Korea.