US: Won't Accept NKorea Nuke Deadline 12/16 06:25
A senior U.S. diplomat said Monday that Washington won't accept a year-end
deadline set by North Korea to make concessions in stalled nuclear talks and
urged Pyongyang to return to a negotiating table immediately.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A senior U.S. diplomat said Monday that
Washington won't accept a year-end deadline set by North Korea to make
concessions in stalled nuclear talks and urged Pyongyang to return to a
negotiating table immediately.
"On this point, let me be absolutely clear: The United States does not have
a deadline," Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea,
told reporters. "We are fully aware of the strong potential for North Korea to
conduct a major provocation in the days ahead. To say the least, such an action
will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Biegun, who was in Seoul for talks with South Korean officials, called on
North Korea to sit down for talks.
"Let me speak directly to our counterparts in North Korea: It is time for us
to do our jobs. Let's get this done. We are here. And you know how to reach
us," he said.
Biegun later held separate meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in
and Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, Seoul's point man on North Korea.
Moon's office said that during his visit to the presidential Blue House, Biegun
said the Trump administration wouldn't give up on seeking diplomatic progress
with North Korea, but it did not elaborate further.
It's unclear if North Korea will reach out to the U.S. to resolve their
widening differences on how to achieve North Korean denuclearization.
Senior North Korean officials have recently said denuclearization is already
off the negotiating table and have threatened to lift a self-imposed moratorium
on nuclear and long-range missile tests. In past months, North Korea has also
conducted a slew of short-range missile and other weapons tests.
Worries about a major North Korean provocation grew after the country said
Saturday that it had successfully performed an unspecified "crucial test" that
will strengthen its nuclear deterrent. Experts say the North could launch a
satellite-carrying rocket or an intercontinental ballistic missile if the U.S.
fails to meet the year-end deadline.
Friday's test was the second in a week at a rocket facility where North
Korea has conducted missile-engine tests and launched satellites in what the
U.N. called cover for testing its long-range missile technology.
North Korea's military chief, Pak Jong Chon, asserted Saturday that the
North has built up "tremendous power" and that the findings from the recent
tests would be used to develop new weapons to allow the country to "definitely
and reliably" counter U.S. nuclear threats.
The test-flight of an ICBM would likely completely derail diplomatic efforts
as President Donald Trump has viewed the North Korean weapons test moratorium
as a major foreign policy achievement.
Biegun called the latest North Korean statements "so hostile and negative
and so unnecessary." He said they don't reflect the spirit and content of the
discussions the two countries have had since the North entered talks with the
U.S. last year.
He said the United States has offered "any number of creative ways to
proceed with feasible steps and flexibility in our negotiations to reach
balanced agreements that meet the objectives of both sides."