US State Department: Seoul Must Take the Next Step with North Korea

Posted: 01/20/2011
US Department of State
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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - January 20, 2011
Thu, 20 Jan 2011 15:58:49 -0600
Mark C. Toner
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
QUESTION: Yes. South Korea and North Korea will have military talks soon. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. TONER: I do. I mean, obviously, we’ve been clear all along that we view any dialogue between North and South Korea as a welcome sign, but obviously would stress that it’s important that North Korea continues to take meaningful steps to improve inter-Korean relations.
QUESTION: Like what?
MR. TONER: Well, again, this kind of positive dialogue is a good step. And we’ve seen some positive signs, communications, from North Korea. We want to see those followed up with more concrete actions. Obviously, North Korea is now cycling away from more belligerent actions that we saw over the past – over the last year, the second part of last year, beginning with the sinking of the Cheonan. We want to see this positive arc continue.
QUESTION: So you want, I mean, for --
MR. TONER: I mean, ultimately, this is – sorry, Arshad, just to say ultimately this is between – this is an issue for South Korea primarily and for them to decide and to set that framework of what constitutes positive actions by North Korea in terms of their inter-Korean dialogue. But --
QUESTION: But you’ve said that you want to see the North take meaningful steps to improve intra-Korean relations.
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: And other than citing what you believe is a cycle of avoiding belligerence, which I guess means they haven’t launched an attack for about two months now, is there anything else you want out of them?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I mean, ultimately, it’s something for the – for South Korea to define. But this kind of positive engagement between the two and this beginning dialogue that will hopefully lead to more steps is a positive sign. We welcome it.
QUESTION: And is this – a number of U.S. officials have talked about a resumption of North-South dialogue as a possible precursor to resuming multilateral or Six-Party talks on North Korean denuclearization. Do you see these planned or high-level North-South military talks as a step in the direction of Six-Party – of resuming Six-Party Talks?
MR. TONER: It’s a fair question. We view it as a positive sign. And in that context, it’s something that helps ease tensions in the region. We still believe that North Korea has a ways to go before we can engage in meaningful Six-Party Talks. As we’ve said all along, we don’t want to just talk for talk’s sake. We want something that’s part of a meaningful engagement.
QUESTION: And what is that that you want? Is that the return of IAEA inspectors, a halt to missile tests, a halt to nuclear tests? I mean, what do you want them to do? What is the long way that they have to traverse?
MR. TONER: Well, again, I’m not going to get into the specifics, but we believe that North Korea needs to show that it’s willing to engage positively, both with South Korea as well as in the region.
QUESTION: We’ve gone back and forth on this very question for the past three months now and never getting an answer. Yo u won’t tell us what specific steps you want the North Koreans to take, but have you told the North Koreans what they – you want them to do? I mean, how are they supposed to know if you refuse to tell them?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we continue to consult with all the – our Six-Party colleagues, including China and others.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the North Koreans to tell them what you expect them to do?
MR. TONER: I don’t know the last time we’ve talked to North Korea beyond –
QUESTION: Are the North Koreans aware of what specifically you want them to do, what – before you’ll consider going back to the Six-Party Talks?
MR. TONER: We believe they’re well aware.
QUESTION: And how? How are they aware?
QUESTION: Was it Bosworth’s 2009 –
MR. TONER: I’m not going to go beyond what I just said. I mean, I –
QUESTION: Well, again, you believe, but how do you know that they’re --
MR. TONER: I believe that our public statements –
QUESTION: No, public statements are --
MR. TONER: -- and our consultations with other Six-Party –
QUESTION: Mark, the public statements have been deliberately vague. You won’t tell us – you won’t --
MR. TONER: But again, we’ve been engaged with other members of the Six-Party Talks and we’ve been trying to chart a way forward. Those have been productive, but I’m just not going to spell it out more.
QUESTION: Is this, the talks between the – with – the defense talks, is this something that they were told would be a good sign?
MR. TONER: I’ll just reiterate that we view it as a welcome sign.