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U.S. has not proposed setting up liaison office in Pyongyang next year: White House

All Headlines 01:52 December 19, 2009

By Hwang Doo-hyong

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- The White House denied Friday that it has proposed a liaison office in Pyongyang next year if North Korea returns to the six-party talks on ending its nuclear ambitions.

"It's untrue. No such proposal has been made," said Benjamin Chang, deputy spokesman for the National Security Council.

Chang was responding to a media report that President Barack Obama made the proposal in a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, delivered by Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy.

Pyongyang has boycotted the multilateral talks in anger over U.N. sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests, demanding bilateral talks with the U.S. to resolve the nuclear issue.

Bosworth said Wednesday he met last week with Kang Sok-ju, first vice foreign minister in charge of the nuclear issue, and other officials, in the first high-level contact after Obama's inauguration in January, but failed to obtain their commitment to return to the six-nation forum.

The U.S. pointman on North Korea, however, was still optimistic.

"They've indicated they would like to resume the six-party process," he said. "They have agreed on the essential nature of the joint statement of 2005."

Washington's normalization of ties with Pyongyang is among the benefits stipulated in the 2005 nuclear deal calling for the North's nuclear dismantlement.

Other incentives are massive economic aid and the establishment of a permanent peace regime to replace the fragile armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs Wednesday confirmed that Bosworth carried Obama's letter.

He did not elaborate on the contents, just saying the letter is "to convince them to do what is in their interest, and that's come back to the table and ultimately live up to the agreements they signed to give up and to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula."

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency earlier in the day said, "Leader Kim Jong Il received a personal letter from Barack Obama, president of the United States of America," without discussing its contents.

Bosworth said he did not bring back a letter from the North Korean leader.

He said he conveyed "very directly to the North Korean leadership a vision for the future which would be a lot different than the present or the past, and ways in which we could improve both our bilateral relationship and improve North Korea's overall relationships within Northeast Asia."

Bosworth and other U.S. officials have said they will not reward the North just for returning to the six-party talks, and reiterated the U.S. will continue sanctions on the North until it returns to the talks and takes substantial steps toward its denuclearization.

They noted the cargo plane impounded in Bangkok Saturday while carrying 35 tons of North Korean weapons to an unknown destination.

Bosworth said that North Korea has agreed to discuss its uranium-based nuclear program in future six-party talks and that the U.S. is ready to discuss a peace treaty, but added, "We're not going to negotiate on any of these issues until we're back at the table in the six-party framework."

The "first challenges" in future six-party talks, he said, will be "an overall sequencing of denuclearization; the move toward a new peace regime, a peace treaty; the provision of energy and economic assistance; normalization of relations; the establishment of some sort of a structure for Northeast Asian security."

He said the timing of the reopening of the six-party talks will be "the subject of ongoing consultations."

Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said last week Washington is ready to have another high-level meeting with North Korea toward reopening the six-party talks.


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