Any North Korea meeting must lead to six-way talk: U.S.

WASHINGTON Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:33pm EDT

A Japanese tourist walks past a display showing pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a South Korean observation post near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, north of Seoul, October 13, 2009. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

A Japanese tourist walks past a display showing pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a South Korean observation post near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, north of Seoul, October 13, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States wants any bilateral contacts with North Korea to result in the resumption of stalled six-country nuclear negotiations, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia said on Monday.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said "patience and caution are the order of the day" in taking up Pyongyang's call for talks with Washington, voiced by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to a visiting Chinese leader this month.

"We would be prepared for, in the right circumstances at some point, some initial interaction that would lead rapidly to a six-party framework," he told a think tank forum in Washington.

The six-party talks involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States but have been stalled since North Korea said six months ago it was quitting them. Pyongyang added to tension by conducting its second nuclear test in May.

Campbell, who was briefed by the Chinese in Beijing last week on Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to North Korea, said the Obama administration has not decided on bilateral talks.

He said he told the Chinese that in addition to North Korea needing to show commitment to the six-party framework, "We really must insist that they abide by the commitments that they signed in 2005 and 2007."

Pyongyang signed agreements under which it pledged to give up its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for economic aid and an end to diplomatic isolation.

The State Department last week said it had decided to grant a visa to Ri Gun, North Korea's No. 2 official at six-party talks, to attend meetings in New York and San Diego with private scholars and experts who study North Korea.

Analysts said Ri's unofficial meetings could set the stage for a resumption of formal nuclear talks

On Monday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said a U.S. official would attend the Northeast Asia Cooperative Dialoguein San Diego next week, but there would be no proper negotiations between the two countries.

"There are no sit-downs with the North Koreans that are planned," said Kelly, who added that such a meeting could not be ruled out.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)

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