A top U.S. diplomat says the United States is prepared to resume talks with North Korea, but it wants to avoid the mistakes made in previous negotiations with the communist nation.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told Foreign Policy magazine in an interview published Tuesday that no policy is the right policy forever. On North Korea, he said that the U.S. government's basic conviction has been a preparedness to engage in negotiations, but also a desire to avoid the mistakes of the past.
Steinberg is the second-ranking official in the State Department and has been involved in planning major U.S. policies in Asia and elsewhere. He is scheduled to leave the post next month.
In the interview, Steinberg stressed the importance of listening to various points of view and engaging with people outside of government. He gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton credit for listening to different perspectives on almost every major policy.
Steinberg also said the departure of any expert from the government does not signal a major change in policy. He said policy ultimately comes from the top leaders such as President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, and that they have dealt with Asian issues for two-and-a-half years in their current positions.
North Korea has abandoned six-nation talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for aid and energy. Since the last round of talks in December 2009 in China, North Korea has conducted a series of missile tests and a nuclear test. In the past year it also carried out two military attacks on South Korea, which killed 50 people.
In recent months Pyongyang has signaled a desire to return to the disarmament talks. But the international community has asked for proof that Pyongyang's intent is serious.
China, North Korea's closest ally and a party in six-nation talks, has repeatedly called for a resumption of the stalled negotiations.