Seoul Awaits Pyongyang’s Response on Nuclear Talks

Posted November 8th, 2011 at 5:05 am (UTC-5)
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A South Korean official says two rounds of talks with North Korea have left Pyongyang with a better understanding of what it must do to effect a resumption of six-party nuclear negotiations.

The senior official, who spoke Tuesday on condition he not be identified, told a group of reporters that South Korea's goal is to get the international talks re-started “under the right environment.”

He said North Korea now has a “much clearer” understanding of what it must do for that to happen, and that “the ball is in Pyongyang's court.”

He declined to speculate when Pyongyang might respond, noting that its nuclear negotiator got home from the latest talks just last week. He said the North's leaders will need time to digest what was discussed in those talks.

North Korea's nuclear negotiators held their second meeting with their South Korean counterparts in late September in Beijing and held a second round of talks with U.S. officials in Geneva late last month.

Two years ago, Pyongyang abandoned the six-party talks, under which it would receive economic and diplomatic benefits in exchange for dismantling its nuclear programs. But in recent months it has been pressing to have the talks re-started without conditions.

The United States and Seoul say Pyongyang must first shut down a newly disclosed uranium enrichment program and take other steps to demonstrate its sincerity. The other countries involved in the talks are China, Russia and Japan.

U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth said after last month's Geneva talks he was confident the two sides can eventually reach a deal.

Government officials in Seoul also say publicly they expect continuing progress towards an eventual resumption of multi-national talks. Privately, however, South Korean officials hold out little hope that Pyongyang is prepared to give up its nuclear weapons programs in a complete and verifiable manner, as is the goal of the other partners in the six-party talks.