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US Negroponte: International Pressure On North Korea Working January 30, 2007

Posted by notapundit in US News, World News.

WASHINGTON (AP)–John Negroponte, in line to be the State Department’s No. 2 official, said Tuesday “there are some grounds for optimism” that coming North Korea nuclear disarmament talks can make progress because of international pressure on the Kim Jong Il’s government.

Negroponte said U.S. Treasury Department financial sanctions against North Korea “can provide a bit of leverage” on Pyongyang when the six-party discussions resume next week in China.

He spoke during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing.

Negroponte testified hours after U.S. Treasury Department officials met in Beijing with North Korean officials about the financial sanctions, which are based on U.S. allegations of smuggling and counterfeiting of U.S. dollars.

North Korea has said the sanctions are an impediment to progress in the six-party discussions about ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. It already has carried out a small underground nuclear test.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, suggested to Negroponte Tuesday that the administration rethink its sanctions policy in the interest of advancing the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

Negroponte endorsed the policy, however, as one of a number of factors that he said “affect the thinking” of the North Koreans.

“The fact that the (U.N.) Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution, which placed North Korea for the first time at odds with their traditional friends, China, must have given them pause about the situation that they have created for themselves,” he said.

The resolution was approved in response to North Korea’s Oct. 9 nuclear test.

Earlier, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the panel, said the U.S. may be jeopardizing the six-party talks by suggesting that North Korea may have misspent U.N. Development Program money and raising the issue on the “threshold” of a new round of six-party talks. The administration, Lugar said, should have been pursuing it in “July, August, September or October.”

On Friday, the United Nations said it would audit all its operations in North Korea following U.S. allegations that U.N. money could be ending up illegally in the hands of authorities in Pyongyang.

For the sake of the six-party talks, Lugar said the U.S. should forgo any thought of imposing travel sanctions against high North Korean officials. He said he had received information that that option was being considered.

As Negroponte testified, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Christopher Hill, the top U.S. diplomat for the disarmament discussions, will make stops in Japan and South Korea for consultations before the next round of the six-nation talks begins on Feb. 8.

Specifically, Casey said the U.S. is seeking progress on implementing the statement of principles that the six agreed to in September 2005.

He expressed disappointment at the lack of significant progress at a round in Beijing last month.


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