The Obama administration's onetime point-man for North Korean policy met with a senior official from Pyongyang in Germany, Kyodo News reported on Wednesday, citing an informed source.
Former U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth spoke in Berlin with Ri Yong Ho, North Korea's representative to the six-party aid-for-denuclearization negotiations, the source said.
The reported meeting follows a recent gathering in Beijing of a number of academics and government officials from participants in the talks -- which are between China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States and last were held in December 2008.
A senior North Korean official told attendees of the Beijing meeting that his government was interested in returning to negotiations, but only with no preconditions. The United States and its allies South Korea and Japan say they will not participate in new talks until Pyongyang first makes a show of good faith on its commitment to denuclearization. At the same time, news reports over the last few weeks suggest the North is making headway on several fronts in its ability to domestically produce fissile material -- a development that if true would make it very difficult in the future to have much confidence the country was adhering to any new denuclearization deal.
In order to pressure the Kim Jong Un regime into giving up its nuclear weapons work, concerned nations should tighten financial penalties against the North, former Bush administration National Security Council staffer David Asher told the Yonhap News Agency.
"The whole process [of the six-party talks] has value, but none of this is likely to succeed in getting North Korea to give up its nuclear program unless we are willing to threaten the regime ... in a way that internally threatens it -- taking away their money and forcing them to fight among themselves," said Asher, who also served as coordinator of the North Korea Working Group at the State Department.
"If we want, or have any hope [of] trying to get them to change their nuclear posture, let alone give up their nuclear weapons, we are gonna have to aim at the financial heart of Kim Jong Un's regime."