July 14, 2005

U.S. wants progress from N. Korea in July 25 talks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is encouraged by
North Korea's promise to return to nuclear talks on July 25 but
wants progress and not "talks for talks' sake," a senior Bush
administration official said on Thursday.

North Korea declared in February it had nuclear weapons.

After holding out for a year, it agreed last weekend to
return to the talks on ending its nuclear plans. Other
countries taking part include China, which is hosting the July
25 meetings, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was returning from a
trip to Asia and expressed optimism in Seoul on Wednesday,
saying: "We are very optimistic that our joint efforts to
improve the security situation on the Korean peninsula could
indeed bear fruit, although, of course, there is still much
work to be done."

A senior Bush administration official, briefing a small
group of reporters on condition of anonymity, said it was hoped
progress would be made but added, "of course you don't know."

"There's always been a lot of skepticism at the end of the
day whether North Korea will give up its nuclear program," the
official said.

Among the five allies working to persuade North Korea to
give up nuclear weapons, there is a consensus that "it is time
to make progress in the talks, that it can't be talks for
talks' sake, and there is a consensus among the five really
that it is now time to make progress," the official said.

The official cited the North Koreans' pledge that the goal
of the talks would be a denuclearized Korean peninsula and that
they were committed to progress.

"We think that is positive," the official said. "Those are
positive indicators or factors that would argue in favor of
progress, but the truth is obviously we don't really know, we
won't know until they come back."

South Korea's offer of electricity to North Korea was
helpful and did not represent a shift in U.S. policy, the
official said.

Washington has been adamant that it will not expand on an
offer made a year ago of economic incentives to North Korea in
exchange for Pyongyang giving up nuclear weapons.