North Korea

US: No dialogue if North Korea keeps nuclear programme

Washington will not negotiate with Pyongyang while nuclear programme remains in operation, National Security Adviser says

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 9:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 9:24pm

The Obama administration said on Wednesday it wants to make Asia more stable and won’t negotiate with North Korea while it keeps critical elements of its nuclear weapons programme running.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice also warned Pyongyang could face tougher sanctions if it acts provocatively.

She made the comments on Wednesday in an Asia policy speech where she underscored US commitment to the region and announced President Barack Obama would visit in April.

Political discord in Washington that caused a two-week partial government shutdown and brought the US close to a debt default prompted Obama to cancel a four-nation trip to Asia in October and added to perceptions that his administration’s foreign policy rebalance to the region is running out of stream.

Rice did not specify where Obama would travel. In October, he had been due to attend regional summits to Indonesia and Brunei, and also visit Malaysia and the Philippines.

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, Rice stressed the importance of co-operating with China, including on confronting the threat posed by North Korea, which relies heavily on its economic ties with Beijing.

North Korea conducted an atomic test in February and this summer reportedly restarted a plutonium reactor. But with prodding from China, the North has since said it wants to resume, without preconditions, international aid-for-disarmament negotiations it pulled out of five years ago.

Rice said rolling back the threat posed by North Korea is a priority, and the US is open to credible negotiations that get at the entirety of the North’s nuclear programme. But she added that for Pyongyang to engage in dialogue while keeping critical elements of the programme running is unacceptable.

“We will continue to join with international partners, especially China, to increase pressure on North Korea to denuclearize,” Rice said, warning that the US would “maintain and expand, as necessary,” bilateral and multilateral sanctions.

“There will continue to be significant costs to future provocations,” she said.