Two North Korean government officials told a top U.S.
official dealing with North Korea that the hermitic Stalinist state would not
continue on its path to denuclearization, as promised in 2005, until the United
States ends what it sees as America's hostile policy to the DPRK.
the Obama administration's special envoy to the now-defunct Six Party Talks,
met with Han Song-ryol, North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United
Nations, and Choe Son Hui, the deputy director-general of the North
American affairs bureau in the DPRK foreign ministry, late last month in China,
two government officials briefed on the meeting told The Cable. The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Northeast
Asia Cooperation Dialogue, which was held this year on Sept. 27 and 28 in the
Chinese city of Dalian.
In the meeting, the DPRK officials reiterated their previously
stated position that they would consider a review of their nuclear program
only after the United States first ended what they allege is its hostile policy
toward the DPRK, according to the officials. No progress was made on toward
resuming negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program, both officials said.
This was the first bilateral meeting between U.S. and DPRK officials
since the July meeting between Han and Hart in New York, and no future meetings
are scheduled. In August, Han and Choe met with six American experts in a Track
2 dialogue in Singapore that included the participation of Joel Wit, a
former U.S. nuclear negotiator, and Corey Hinderstein, vice president of the international program at the Nuclear
Obama administration sources say that U.S.-DPRK interactions
have been extremely scarce in the wake of three events: the death of Kim Jong Il, the collapse of the Feb.
Day" agreement that would have seen resumed inspections inside North Korea and
a parallel food aid program, and an April unsuccessful launch of an Unha-3 rocket with a "satellite"
attached to it by North Korea. There is real concern that Kim Jong Un does not intend to stand by the 2005 agreement, which
codified North Korea's promise to eventually denuclearize, and the United
States has asked to Chinese to weigh in with the North Koreans to get more
clarity on their position, these sources said.
The U.S.-DPRK talks were only one small part of the larger
dialogue, which included representation by Japan, Russia, China, and South
Korea -- the other members of the Six Party Talks process. The dialogue has
been meeting annually since 1993 and is organized by the University of
California at San Diego's Susan Shirk.
"This ‘Track 1.5' structure had more officials than
academics, but they come in their private capacity, not representing their
governments," Shirk said in an interview. "Track 2" discussions generally
involve only outside experts. "Track 1.5" meetings include a mix of officials
Over two days of meetings, seminars, and working groups, the
participants discussed the details of security, economic, and energy issues,
she said. This year the dialogue also included a separate two-day group working
on maritime safety and security in Northeast Asia, which included civilian, Navy,
and Foreign Ministry representatives from China for first time.
The focus was not on solving the overarching political
disputes, but rather on how to have a safer maritime environment and how to
prevent disputes from creating accidents that could escalate, Shirk said.
"The good news is we aired the difficult issues. We had the
participation of very knowledgeable people from in and out of government from
all six countries," she said. "We're not about to come up with a brilliant
breakthrough that will solve a problem, but there is a lot better understanding
of the positions of the countries and hopefully that will translate into the
future resolution of issues at the official levels."
There were seven DPRK officials in attendance in Dalian. In
addition to Han and Choe were Kwon Jong Gun, a director in North Korea's foreign ministry, desk officers Sim Il
Gwang, Jo Jong Chol, and Hwang Myong Sim, and Rim
Chol Hun, first secretary at the DPRK embassy in Beijing.
On the American side, in addition Hart and Shirk, there was
State Department China desk officer Aubrey
Carlson, State Department foreign affairs analyst Allison Hooker, Brett
Blackshaw from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, Sean Stein and Jeff Foree
from the Consul General in Shenyang, CSIS's Bonnie Glaser, Rear Adm. Mike
McDevitt (ret.), and others.
In the days following the meetings, there was public
evidence that the DPRK is still not ready to engage constructively with the
international community. For example, North Korea announced
Oct. 9 in a statement that it now has missiles that can reach the United
States. Many analysts discounted the claim, but State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called that an
unhelpful move by the DPRK.
"Certainly rather than bragging about its
missile capability, they ought to be feeding their own people, would be our
first comment," she said. "The DPRK needs to understand that it will
achieve nothing by threats or provocations. That's only going to undermine
their efforts to get back into conversation with the international community."