The Obama administration on Monday kept up a carefully neutral stance on prospects for relaunching a frozen multinational negotiation process aimed at North Korean nuclear disarmament, days after Obama officials met with a North Korean delegation in New York, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
Obama officials would not affirm or reject North Korea's claim that the nations had resolved to hold further bilateral discussions following the New York talks that were led by U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.
"We thought that these were good meetings, that they were constructive," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said to reporters. "And we're going to consult with our partners on the way forward."
Bosworth is rumored to be planning to travel to China, Japan, and South Korea -- all participants in the stalled six-party talks -- to brief them on the New York discussions. Russia is also a member of the aid-for-denuclearization negotiations, reported Yonhap News Agency I.
A high-ranking South Korean envoy at the United Nations warned against unwarranted rosy expectations that the recent spate of contact with the North could finally result in serious moves by Pyongyang toward irreversible denuclearization, Yonhap reported.
The unidentified diplomat told reporters that North Korea appears to be pursuing diplomatic re-engagement now as part of efforts to attain international recognition as a nuclear-armed state and to secure aid, in addition to winning acceptance of a transfer of power within the ruling Kim family.
The envoy said Pyongyang's goals are to "induce comments that recognize it as a nuclear state, or lead to interpretations as such, win recognition from many countries for a power succession, and draw investment or assistance amid economic difficulties."
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me," the diplomat said, referring to Pyongyang's track record of using formal negotiations to secure concessions in exchange for some limited disarmament steps only to reverse course and return to provocative actions when it has attained what it wanted.
"We have been so very disappointed and frustrated. We should not repeat that," the South Korean envoy said.
North Korea finally granted one of the South's longstanding demands in July -- that the two sides meet for discussions on the North's nuclear activities. That meeting in Indonesia paved the way for the U.S.-North Korea talks last week.
The diplomat said he anticipates North Korea to use a well known maneuver of separating discussions with Washington from its dealings with the South in order to extract more concessions. For this reason, he underlined the importance of South Korea and the United States remaining tightly coordinated.
"South Korea-U.S. coordination is relatively easy in a frosty, confrontational phase (with North Korea), but once dialogue begins, coordination between South Korea and the U.S. gets more important. That is now the situation," the U.N. envoy said.
Beijing on Tuesday added its voice to North Korea's in urging for a speedy relaunch of the six-party negotiations that were last held in December 2008, Agence France-Presse reported.
"We hope relevant parties seize the opportunity to walk towards each other and work together to create conditions for the early resumption of six-party talks," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in released remarks.
China is North Korea's strongest ally and chief benefactor, and typically sides with Pyongyang in the regional security talks.
A delegation of ex-U.S. envoys and academics also met with the North Korean officials in New York on Monday for unofficial "Track 2" talks.
National Committee on American Foreign Policy analyst Donald Zagoria said he and the other U.S. experts that met with the North Korean officials were satisfied with the open and honest nature of the talks. Zagoria emphasized, however, that there continues to be significant distance between the positions of Washington and Pyongyang on a number of matters.
"We should not underestimate the gaps that exist between the two sides," former Korea Society President Evans Revere said. "I think we are as far apart as we have ever been."
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