U.S., North Korea Consider Reopening Dialogue
The 15-minute informal meeting between Powell, who is currently on a six-nation tour of Southeast Asia, and North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun led to an offer from the North Koreans to resume a more formal dialogue between the two countries.
According to the Associated Press, after the meeting Paek said, “We have agreed to resume the dialogue between North Korea and the United States.”
Asked about the meeting after a lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov later in the day, Powell said, “It was a good meeting, a short meeting over coffee, and I told him that we should stay in touch and see how to pursue our dialogue.”
Powell went on to credit Ivanov with encouraging the North Koreans to open dialogue with the U.S. saying, “Clearly, Minister Ivanov was encouraging the North Koreans to move in the direction that they have been moving recently.”
In a statement, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Powell, “reaffirmed the president’s policy and said that in any future discussions, we would want to emphasize a variety of matters, including proliferation, mutual commitments made under the Agreed Framework, and conventional forces. As for follow-on meetings or travel, we would consider the statements the North Koreans have made.”
President Bush proposed that communication between the two countries resume in June 2001. The Powell-Paek meeting was North Korea’s first sign of interest in such talks since the president said the nuclear-armed country was part of an “axis of evil” along with Iraq and Iran during a State of the Union speech.
The meeting comes in the midst of new overtures by North Korea to re-open communications with South Korea, Japan and the United States. On Tuesday, South Korea agreed to begin new talks after North Korea expressed regret for a recent naval incident which left five South Korean sailors dead and 19 others injured.