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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

U.S. Outlines Strategy for Upcoming North Korea Talks

15 November 2006

North Korea to face continued sanctions unless it abandons nuclear weapons

Washington -- The United States will continue to honor its long-standing commitment to security in Asia in the upcoming round of Six-Party Talks, a senior State Department official told Congress November 15.

“We do not and will not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state,” said R. Nicholas Burns, U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs. Burns testified before the House International Relations Committee in international efforts to convince North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

With its July 4-5 ballistic missile tests and October 9 nuclear weapons test; its pursuit of other weapons programs and its active currency counterfeiting, drug trafficking and smuggling operations; as well as its extensively documented record of human rights abuses against its own citizens, North Korea is a “clear threat to international security,” said Burns.

Working multilaterally with Pyongyang’s neighbors to confront this threat, he said, “is one of our government’s highest foreign policy priorities.”

On October 31, North Korea announced that it would return to the Six-Party Talks, which include China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. The talks are aimed at implementing the September 19, 2005, Joint Statement, which calls for a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula and a comprehensive package of economic aid and political incentives, with the goal of providing a better life for the people of North Korea and a way to a full peace treaty finally to end the Korean War.  (See related article.)

A firm date for the next round of talks is not yet available, but Burns said he expected diplomats to convene before the end of 2006.


Burns recently returned from meetings with his diplomatic counterparts in China, Japan and South Korea, accompanied by Robert Joseph, under secretary for arms control and international security affairs. “What we found in the region last week was unanimous recognition that North Korea’s nuclear test is a ‘game changer,’” Burns said. “This is not a time for business as usual.” (See related article.)

“We were met with a very positive reception in each capital, and a recognition of the need to work together to put maximum pressure on the Kim Jong-Il regime,” Burns told the committee. 

North Korea also will figure prominently in discussions among the region’s leaders as President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice travel to Hanoi, Vietnam, to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, November 18-19, he added.  (See related article.)

“Our message to Pyongyang remains clear: Abandon nuclear weapons, move to implement the Joint Statement and join your neighbors as a responsible member of the international community and the prosperous region of Northeast Asia,” Burns said.


Since North Korea repeatedly has violated its pledges to adhere to the Joint Statement, Burns warned that Pyongyang must now demonstrate its willingness to finally fulfill its diplomatic commitments.  “The world will not accept merely the resumption of talks for talks' sake,” Burns said. “We need to make real progress in the next round.”

The U.S. strategy for the talks, he said will follow a two-track approach focused on aggressively implementing U.N. sanctions in an effort to induce Pyongyang toward a diplomatic settlement.

Following the North Korean nuclear test, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1718, requiring member states to prevent the supply, sale or transfer of a specific list of items that could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear weapons, ballistic missile or other weapons programs, as well as luxury goods enjoyed by North Korean elites and denied to other citizens.

“All of our partners are committed to implementing Resolution 1718 and to the effort to reach a diplomatic agreement with the North on denuclearization,” Burns said, highlighting the international resolve illustrated by South Korea’s suspension of aid programs; Japan’s imposition of unilateral sanctions against the regime; and China’s commitment a diplomatic settlement, which brought Pyongyang back to the table.


“How the world responds to North Korea is likely to affect the calculation of other aspiring nuclear powers, including Iran,” Burns said, adding that the Six-Party Talks are only one example of the growing international consensus about the need to stem the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Eighty states currently participate in the Proliferation Security Initiative, an effort established by President Bush in 2003 to stop illicit shipments of weapons of mass destruction and related materials by land, sea and air.  The United States also is helping India to bring its civil nuclear program under international monitoring and with Russia launched the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.  (See related article.)

“Through our firm multilateral diplomacy confronting the North Korean threat,” he said, “we are also sending a strong message to Iran: The path North Korea is choosing is not leading to more prosperity and security -- in fact, it is leading in the opposite direction.”

A transcript of Burns’s prepared remarks and a video link to the hearing are available on the House International Relations Committee Web site.

For more information, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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