US, Japan, South Korea Discuss Restarting Six-Party Talks

Posted January 17th, 2012 at 4:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Top officials from the United States, South Korea and Japan met Tuesday in Washington for talks focusing on restarting stalled six-party negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and special North Korea envoy Glyn Davies hosted Lim Sung Nam, South Korea's top negotiator to the talks, and his Japanese counterpart, Shinsuke Sugiyama.

The diplomats gathered to coordinate the next steps in the six-party talks for the first time since the death last month of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il.

Meanwhile, North Korea's state-run news agency, KCNA, published an editorial Tuesday accusing the United States of prohibiting the development of nuclear programs and tests, while at the same time pursuing an aggressive nuclear policy.

The article claims that the United States deploys nuclear weapons in regions around the world and escalates the danger of nuclear war on the Korean peninsula.

The United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas have negotiated for years to get North Korea's nuclear programs abandoned in exchange for economic aid.

North Korea walked out of the six-party negotiations in 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test, earning tough international sanctions.

Before his death in December, Kim Jong Il expressed a desire to return to the talks. But he rejected preconditions set by U.S. officials that North Korea must suspend its uranium enrichment program and allow U.N. inspectors back into the country.

But Mike Chinoy, a North Korea analyst at the University of Southern California, says it is unclear whether North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong Un, is willing to make concessions as he attempts to consolidate power following his father's death.

“The question is really whether the North is ready to pick up where things left off when Kim Jong Il died. There are some signs that suggest he might. Other signs are not so clear. It may be too early to tell.”

Analysts say North Korea's perpetual food shortages may induce its leaders to return to the six-party talks. The U.S. suspended its food assistance program in early 2009, partially because of concerns the food was being diverted to North Korea's military or members of its political elite.