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North Korea remains suspicious of a US invitation, issued by President Bush in June, to resume negotiations on a range of non-proliferation and security issues including Pyongyang's missile development and export policies, the 1994 Agreed Framework on replacing the country's nuclear reactors, and North Korea's conventional force posture. Mention of the conventional forces issue, not explicitly raised by the Clinton administration, is reportedly regarded by North Korea as deliberately provocative.
On August 24, the official North Korean news agency issued a statement declaring: "It is still the US side's turn to kick the ball... The US has not withdrawn those agenda items for negotiations it had unilaterally put up before both sides sit together. ... It is quite clear that the dialogue can hardly be resumed unless those agenda items are withdrawn." The statement concluded with a demand for a return to an agenda "identical" to that pursued by the two sides during the Clinton presidency.
In Tokyo on September 6, Japan, South Korea and the US issued a joint statement appealing to North Korea to take up the US offer of talks. The statement noted:
"The US delegation [headed by Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly] outlined the situation on US-North Korean relations after the release of the President's statement on the review of US policy toward North Korea. It reaffirmed that the US was prepared to undertake serious discussions with North Korea without preconditions and expressed its hope that North Korea would positively respond to its call at an early date."
On September 9, South Korean Foreign Minister Han Seung-soo repeated this appeal: "We hope that they will take up that initiative as early as possible. The ball is on the North Korean side."
On September 14, Thomas Hubbard, the new US Ambassador to South Korea, sought to assure both Seoul and Pyongyang that the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington would not have "any impact" on the Bush administration's policy in the Peninsular. According to Hubbard: "We remain interested in building peace around the world even as we deal with this terrible terrorism problem." Both Koreas strongly condemned the terrorist outrages.
Reports: N. Korea demands US clear way to restart talks, Reuters, August 24; Text - US prepared for serious discussions with Pyongyang, Washington File, September 6; South Korea appeals to North Korea, Associated Press, September 9; US assures Koreas on policy, Associated Press, September 14.
© 2001 The Acronym Institute.