Former envoy attacks US stance over North Korea

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 May, 2004, 12:00am

He says Washington's flawed Pyongyang policy is increasing the nuclear threat

The Bush administration will step up pressure on Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme if it wins a second term, according to a former top Washington pointman on North Korea.

Charles Pritchard, a special envoy to Pyongyang under the Clinton and Bush administrations, has said both George W. Bush and Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry will both push for the dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear programme, but are likely to differ sharply in their approaches.

'If Bush wins another term, I foresee that there is likely to be a tightening of the noose on North Korea, economically and diplomatically,' he said.

Mr Pritchard was sharply critical of the US administration for engaging in an 'informing, rather than consulting, process' with its allies while trying to resolve the nuclear crisis.

'If John Kerry wins the election, what you'll see is not a change in goal, but how it goes about this, with more sharing of information with allies and a bilateral dialogue,' he said.

Pyongyang is currently involved in a standoff over its suspected development of nuclear weapons. A series of six-party talks in recent months involving the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan and Russia have failed to resolve the crisis.

Mr Pritchard was closely involved in the early stages of the standoff but resigned in August in protest at Washington's approach to North Korea.

Since then, he has been a robust critic of the US administration's policy towards the communist state. The former top official says the Bush administration lacks an effective strategy or the necessary direct contact with Pyongyang, to dissuade it from building nuclear arms.

'We are now 18 months into the crisis, the Bush administration has been steadfast in its refusal to meet with the North Koreans in a bilateral forum and in the 18 months, what do they have to show for it? They have a defacto nuclear North Korea, which may have up to eight nuclear weapons,' he said.

According to US intelligence, Pyongyang has at least one or two nuclear weapons, but Washington has been distracted from addressing the crisis by the escalating problem of Iraq.

North Korea is also reluctant to commit itself to any agreement ahead of a possible change in the US presidency.

Mr Pritchard has warned that unless Washington engages in more intensive diplomacy with Pyongyang, the international community will be forced to accept a future with an additional nuclear-armed state.