U.S. Sends Conflicting Signals on North Korea

Article excerpt

SECRETARY OF STATE Colin Powell briefly met with his North Korean counterpart July 31 in the highest-level exchange between the two countries since the Bush administration took office, but the United States continued to call the North Korean regime "evil" and has not yet decided whether to send an envoy to Pyongyang as had been discussed.

Powell met briefly with Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum meeting in Brunei. The meeting followed a U.S. decision July 2 to cancel a planned delegation to North Korea. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher cited Pyongyang's failure to respond to a proposed July 10 meeting date, as well as a June 29 naval skirmish between North and South Korea, for canceling the visit.

U.S.-North Korea talks that began during the Clinton administration had focused on implementing the 1994 Agreed Framework and negotiating a new agreement to end North Korea's missile program and exports. The Bush administration stated in June 2001 that it was willing to meet with Pyongyang but linked progress on nuclear weapons and missiles to a broader agenda, including conventional forces on the Korean Peninsula and Pyongyang's human rights record.

The administration is now considering whether to send Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly to Pyongyang in the near future. "Our view now is that at an appropriate time a trip by Mr. Kelly is probably warranted," Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said August 28. …