North Korea to Obama: We Are Ready to Talk

In an unprecedented effort to deliver a message to Washington, North Korea's Ambassador to the U.N., Sin Son Ho, initiated a call to CBS News and its affiliate, Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS), to talk about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Other news agencies joined at the Mission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in New York. What followed was a clear message, from North Korea's viewpoint, about what has derailed negotiations with the government of Kim Jong Il: The United States.

(Kyodo via AP Images)
"We are not against the dialogue," said Ambassador Sin (left). "We are not against any negotiations for the issues of common concern," but the failure of these talks, he added, "is not because of us."

CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk reports that, according to Ambassador Sin, Pyongyang is prepared to negotiate directly with Washington about Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program: "We are ready, any time," he said.

But the Obama administration has stuck to the framework of the six-party talks. Those negotiations, involving the two Koreas, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S., have been unhinged several times, with Pyongyang returning to the development of its nuclear program and the testing of ballistic missiles.

For North Korea, those negotiations will not restart.

"We have already made our position very clear," Ambassador Sin told CBS. "The six-party talks are gone forever. We will never participate in the six-party talks again. Never again."

So, what does the government of Kim Jong Il want? One year ago, in June 2008, North Korea imploded the cooling tower at its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon, as a condition of the six-party talks, in an agreement that included significant aid to the North.

But then things went sour, and North Korea tested its missiles, and conducted an underground nuclear test this past May. The result was a new U.N. Security Council Resolution (1874) with tougher sanctions.

As Kim Jong Il's health deteriorates and talk builds about a succession to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, the North Korean government is defying U.N. sanctions, testing its nuclear power, and (for the first time in such a direct way) responding to accusations by the international community about its intentions.

North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Sin, offered Pyongyang's explanation. "We have proceeded very well about denuclearization on our side with what we have agreed upon in the six-party talks, but we were cheated. We were cheated, simply I say, by other parties. The other parties of the six-party talks did not implement what they have agreed, what they promised in the six-party talks. So we do not trust them."

In the back and forth with the regime of Kim Jong Il on the North's nuclear program, the government of North Korea has banned International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, walked away from the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and restarted its nuclear testing, even during the direct engagement days of the Clinton Administration. And in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, earlier this month, another North Korean official said that Pyongyang would not resume disarmament at all.

In the last month, the Washington–Pyongyang relationship has deteriorated to name calling, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton receiving the brunt of the personal attacks.

The Ambassador spoke of many subjects Friday; he wove in references to Pearl Harbor and the fact that North Korea does not have "nukes," but the most significant was the fact that the government of Kim Jong Il called the meeting to respond to Washington, after having tried to speak at the podium during Secretary of State Clinton's recent Asia trip.

The most ominous comment, however, was perhaps the explanation of why the North pursues their nuclear program. "We are always exposed to the nuclear threat of the U.S.," Ambassador Sin said. "Japan and South Korea are under the protection of the nuclear umbrella by the United States. And our neighboring countries are all-powerful with nuclear weapons. There is only one country – DPRK – with nuclear vacancy in the region. We are defenseless, so it is our last option – to possess the nuclear deterrent."


This story was filed by CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk, who returned this month from a trip to Beijing, reporting from the U.N.
  • Pamela Falk

    Pamela Falk is CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst and an international lawyer, based at the United Nations.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.