KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The U.S. and other regional powers will meet Friday to discuss Asian security concerns after North Korea refused to talk with negotiating partners on its nuclear and missile programs, officials said.
The decision by the United States and seven other nations including North Korean allies China and Russia signals the communist regime's deepening isolation less than a month after the U.N. Security Council condemned its missile tests.
The U.S. and other nations have been trying to convince a defiant North Korea to end its nuclear arms program. The North deepened the standoff when it recently tested a long-range missile believed capable of reaching the U.S., along with six other short- and medium-range missiles.
Besides U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, participants at Friday's meeting will also include South Korea and Japan, as well as Australia, Malaysia and Canada, whose foreign ministers are all attending a regional meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"The eight countries will exchange views on regional issues that they are concerned about," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu, adding that they will be represented by the foreign ministers including Rice.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill also separately confirmed the eight-party talks, adding that the U.S. side had "zero plans to meet with the North Koreans."
"We do not have any intention of engaging them bilaterally, until they are back in the diplomatic game," he told reporters.
By not accepting the six-party talks, Hill said North Korea "had made a decision that they want to be isolated. I think it's fair to say that they should be careful what they wish for."
Many had hoped the six-party talks would be revived on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Jiang refused to go into details of what would be discussed in Friday's expanded discussions, saying that as the host nation, Malaysia would set the agenda.
North Korea has refused to negotiate since November to protest a U.S. crackdown on its alleged financial wrongdoing and indicated Thursday it had no intention of dropping its demand for Washington to end the sanctions.
"Six-party talks can happen only after the United States lifts sanctions against us," said North Korea's spokesman, Chong Song Il, after a late-evening dinner Thursday of the foreign ministers.
"I don't know anything about nine-party talks or eight-party talks. I haven't heard about that," he said.
Asked whether North Korea would be willing to meet one-on-one with U.S. officials, Chong said. "if America wants bilateral talks, we are willing to accept that."
The remarks were made hours after North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the ASEAN conference, attended by 25 countries and the European Union.