July 14, 2010 11:15
The U.S. leadership doubts whether North Korea is sincere in calls for the resumption of six-party nuclear talks, which came after the UN Security Council failed to pinpoint the North as the culprit behind the sinking of the South Korean Navy corvette Cheonan.
In a press briefing on Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, "There are very specific actions that North Korea has to take first before we would consider a resumption of the six-party process. And as we've said many times over the past weeks and months [they include] avoiding further provocative actions, setting a more stable and predictable environment in the region."
"But the disregard for the interests of South Korea as evidenced in the Cheonan incident is a case in point," he said. "There are things that North Korea can do -- actions, not words -- that can demonstrate that there’s an earnestness to back up this public indication that they might be willing to talk."
Crowley's was the first official U.S. response to Pyongyang's call since the UNSC released a presidential statement condemning the sinking. It follows internal debate last weekend about how to respond. A diplomatic source in Washington said, "The Obama administration regards the North's launch of a charm offensive after its sinking of the Cheonan as a typical tactic to buy time and cause a crack in the South Korea-U.S. alliance. The U.S. still strongly opposes dialogue for dialogue's sake."
There is a consensus in the Obama administration for the need to be cautious about resuming the six-party talks. But hawks and doves are divided over a joint South Korea-U.S. maritime exercise as a response to the torpedo attack on the Cheonan.
Hardliners in the Defense Department are stressing the need to stage a massive drill as planned in defiance of China's opposition in order to show firm resolve. They want to deliver a clear message to the North to deter any further attacks, and they also worry that the U.S. could look weak if it yields to China and downscales the drill.
But doves are worried that Pyongyang could attempt to take advantage of the joint drill to strengthen ties with Beijing. They fear that tension in Northeast Asia could further heighten and hurt the U.S.' interests.
The fault line apparently does not run between government agencies such as the White House, the State Department or the Defense Department but inside each agency.
The source said Washington is delaying a decision as it weighs the pros and cons of deploying the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, which particularly worries Beijing and Pyongyang.
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