WASHINGTON The White House on Tuesday expressed skepticism about resuming six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program any time soon until Pyongyang stops belligerent actions and lives up to its obligations.
The pessimistic U.S. tone followed a visit to North Korea by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who acted as an unofficial U.S. envoy.
Richardson said North Korea had promised to allow in inspectors to make sure it is not processing highly enriched uranium.
"Right now the action must come not from their words, but from their deeds," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
China has urged South Korea, the United States, Russia and Japan to restart six-party talks with North Korea, but South Korea's allies have refused until Pyongyang gives a firm commitment on nuclear disarmament. North Korea walked out of the six-party talks in April 2009.
Last month, North Korea shelled an island close to a disputed maritime boundary with the South, killing four people. In response the United States sent an aircraft carrier to join military drills with South Korea in a show of strength.
"The six-party talks will be restarted again when the North Koreans display a willingness to change their behavior," Gibbs told reporter. "We're not going to get a table in a room and have six-party talks just for the feel-good notion of having six-party talks."
Gibbs said that "the belligerent actions that the North Koreans have demonstrated over the past many weeks I don't think provide anybody the confidence that they are even remotely ready to resume in a responsible way those talks, and when they are, then the world will be ready to do what's necessary
There were no plans for U.S. President Barack Obama to meet with Richardson to hear about his trip. Gibbs insisted that Richardson was there on a private trip in an unofficial capacity.
As for South Korea, "We are fully supportive of their action and will continue to work hand in hand in order to counter the belligerent actions of the North," Gibbs said.
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull; editing by Mohammad Zargham)