A senior US envoy will hold talks this month in Beijing with North Korea, resuming a dialogue put on hold last year by the death of leader Kim Jong-Il, the State Department said Monday.
The United States has been exploring a resumption of six-nation denuclearization talks with North Korea but has insisted that Pyongyang respect a 2005 agreement at the talks to give up its atomic weapons.
"I think the question is whether they are prepared to respond to what we are looking for in order to get back to talks. So that's what we're looking to find out in Beijing," Nuland told reporters.
Nuland said that the United States wanted to see signs from North Korea on whether "it is prepared to fulfill its commitment" under six-way talks and "its international obligations as well as to take concrete steps towards denuclearization."
The United States held two rounds of talks with North Korea last year in New York and Geneva in hopes of keeping open a dialogue, despite deep skepticism in Washington on whether the communist state will ever give up its weapons.
A third round was ready in Beijing in December but was called off after the sudden death of Kim, which left the isolated and nuclear-armed country in the hands of his untested young son Kim Jong-Un.
Before the planned last round, the United States had been discussing a request by North Korea to resume assistance in food. The country suffered a devastating famine in the 1990s and aid groups have voiced concern about new shortages.
However, Nuland said that the primary focus of next week's talks would be on the resumption of six-way talks. Robert King, the US envoy on human rights in North Korea who visited the country last year to discuss food aid, will not go to Beijing.
"If the North Koreans have more to say on the nutritional situation, then Glyn Davies and team will be prepared to hear that," Nuland said.
Nuland said that the State Department decided to go ahead with the talks after consultations with its partners including South Korea.
The United States has repeatedly said that North Korea must improve relations with the South before any substantive dialogue. Pyongyang in 2010 shelled an island in the South and was accused of torpedoing a warship, incidents that killed 50 people in total.
The six-way talks include China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States. North Korea bolted from the talks in 2009 due to what it described as US hostility, but has since called for their resumption.
China, the North's main ally, has also supported a return to talks. The State Department announcement came shortly before Xi Jinping, China's vice president and likely next leader, is due in Washington for a closely watched visit.
Source: AFP American Edition