Singapore – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Tuesday’s naval clash between North and South Korea will not derail plans to send a U.S. envoy to North Korea to try to revive nuclear negotiations. Clinton discussed North Korea diplomacy in meetings with fellow foreign ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
The clash over the disputed sea boundary between the two Koreas left patrol vessels from both sides damaged and inflamed military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
But Secretary Clinton says it is not going to halt an Obama administration effort to get the Chinese-sponsored six-party talks in North Korea’s nuclear program going again.
A U.S. announcement Tuesday that special envoy Stephen Bosworth will visit Pyongyang before the end of the year nearly coincided with reports of the naval skirmish, the first of its kind in several years.
It prompted urgent consultations between Clinton’s traveling party and officials in Washington and was an issue in the Secretary’s day-long set of meetings at the APEC forum, including a bilateral meeting late Wednesday with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.
Appealing for restraint at a news conference, Clinton said she was encouraged by the calm reaction to the naval encounter and said plans for the long-anticipated Bosworth mission are going forward.
“This does not in any way affect our decision to send Ambassador Bosworth,” Clinton said. “We think that is an important step that stands on its own. It is connected to our efforts, along with our six-party partners, to move towards resumption of the six-party process. We think that is critically important. So we are certainly counseling calm and caution.”
Clinton said Bosworth’s mission to Pyongyang will not be a negotiation but rather an effort to pave the way for North Korea’s return to the six-party process.
North Korea agreed in principle in 2005 to scrap its nuclear program in return for aid and diplomatic benefits from the other participants, the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and host China.
But negotiations broke down last year over Pyongyang’s refusal to accept a verification plan for the declaration it made of it nuclear holdings and activities.
Clinton said APEC colleagues supported the decision to send Bosworth, and that while in North Korea he would press for adherence to the terms of the 2005 agreement and its goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
‘VOA news issued this report’