Envoy says US to continue dual approach of dialogue, sanctions toward North Korea

BEIJING (AP) — The United States sees no signs that North Korea is ready to meet Washington's conditions for rejoining talks aimed at dismantling the rogue regime's nuclear program, so the U.S. will continue to enforce sanctions, an American envoy said Thursday.

Ambassador Stephen Bosworth said the U.S. will also keep trying to get the North back to the negotiating table, even while maintaining financial and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang, which is suspected of building a nuclear bomb.

"We continue to pursue basically a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand we continue to enforce the sanctions which have been put in place over the last year or more, but simultaneously we remain open to dialogue and constructive engagement," Bosworth, in Beijing for two days of meetings with Chinese officials, told a news conference.

Pyongyang pulled out of the talks last year to protest international criticism of a prohibited long-range rocket launch. In May it further escalated tensions by conducting a nuclear weapons test, drawing a rebuke from Beijing and sanctions from the United Nations.

Prospects for resuming the negotiations — which also involve South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia — dimmed even further after the sinking of a South Korean warship in March that an international investigation blamed on a North Korean torpedo.

Tensions over the incident appeared to ease somewhat Thursday, when North Korea proposed it conduct another investigation into the sinking with the U.S.

Bosworth said for the talks to restart, North Korea must make good on its earlier promises. Those include allowing international verification that it is dismantling its nuclear programs.

"We are not interested, as I have said previously, in talking just for the sake of talking. ... We are interested in results," Bosworth said.

Any determination on when talks would resume would be "purely speculative," he added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Thursday that Bosworth held substantive talks with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and China's envoy to the talks, Wu Dawei, though she offered no details.

China hosts the talks and is eager to see them start again, hoping that will increase stability in its communist neighbor and burnish Beijing's image as a responsible player in regional diplomacy.

Pyongyang is also keen to see the talks restart because it is in dire need of financial assistance following recent floods, a botched currency reform and the suspension of aid from South Korea and others after the North's last nuclear test, Jilin University professor Wang Sheng wrote in an editorial appearing in the official China Daily newspaper on Thursday.

"Hence, the DPRK's top priority is to make efforts for the resumption of the six-party talks, because they could restore the flow of foreign assistance to it," Wang wrote, using the initials for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.

However, Wang warned Pyongyang was unlikely to return to the negotiating table unless the U.S. lifted financial sanctions, agreed to meet with the North one-on-one and offered a formal guarantee that it would not use military force against it.

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The New York Times, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he detected a desire for new talks from discussions with North Korean officials during a recent visit to Pyongyang to free an American held there for entering the country illegally.

Despite recent tensions, "there are now clear signals of eagerness from Pyongyang to resume negotiations and accept the basic provisions of the denuclearization and peace efforts," Carter wrote.