By Elaine Lies
PUSAN, South Korea (Reuters) – The top U.S. negotiator to
six-country talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs urged China
on Saturday to “take a little more responsibility for cleaning
up that mess.”
A fifth round of talks broke off last week in Beijing with
the United States and North Korea far apart after Pyongyang
offered to freeze but not dismantle its nuclear programs in
return for compensation. Washington said that was unacceptable.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State
Christopher Hill emphasized the need for multilateral talks.
“We just finished a round last week, and we hope to get
going in a few more weeks,” said Hill, who was talking to a
group of university students from APEC countries. “We have many
options for dealing with this problem, but diplomacy is the
best one. The one option we don’t have is to walk away.”
A Chinese statement issued last week said the parties —
Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas as well as the United
States — had agreed to hold a second session of the fifth
round at the earliest possible date.
Hill said he felt China’s past failure to prevent North
Korea — a long-time ally — from gaining nuclear weapons meant
it should work a little harder now to resolve the problem.
“I think it’s time for the Chinese to take a little more
responsibility for cleaning up that mess,” he said.
In a breakthrough statement in September at an earlier
round of the talks, North Korea said it would disarm in
exchange for aid and security guarantees. It is also demanding
a light-water reactor for civil use.
But the details and timing are far from being agreed.
“North Korea is saying, we need you first to recognize us,
first give us help, give us a lot of economic help, and then
we’ll think about getting rid of the weapons,” Hill said.
“But it’s going to be the other way around.”
Hill also said he was extremely concerned about North
Korea’s human rights record, raising an issue that has angered
Pyongyang in the past.
“North Korea’s human rights record is something that should
make every person in the world feel a certain personal sense of
moral revulsion,” he said. “You can’t have a normal
relationship with a country that keeps a gulag.”
Although he said he understood that changing things would
be a long-term process, North Korea needed to start working on
it as human rights will continue to be a factor in the future.
The six-way talks began in 2003 when China sought to broker
a peaceful compromise after the United States accused North
Korea of covertly building atomic weapons and Pyongyang pulled
out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
North Korea said in February it had nuclear weapons.