SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's vice foreign minister is to visit New York this week for a rare meeting that could pave the way for a resumption of multinational denuclearization talks, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday.
The meeting between Kim Kae Gwan and U.S. officials, arranged at Washington's request, represents a chance for the first diplomatic progress with North Korea in more than two years. But breaking that long stalemate also comes with a risk; the Obama administration has long been wary of the six-party talks and doubtful of Pyongyang's willingness to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
Clinton described the meeting as "exploratory." The United States and other involved nations — China, Russia, Japan and South Korea — can reopen the six-party talks if Pyongyang stands behind its 2005 agreement to abandon its nuclear efforts, Clinton said.
"We are open to talks with North Korea, but we do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table," she said in a statement. "We will not give them anything new for actions they have already agreed to take. And we have no appetite for pursuing protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been."
The six-party talks, launched in 2003, have generated a cycle of promises and promises broken. The negotiations officially broke off in April 2009, only months after the latest North Korean agreement, when the country launched a missile, drawing international condemnation.
The U.S. invitation to the vice foreign minister Sunday came two days after a momentum-building meeting between North and South Korea's nuclear envoys at an Asian foreign ministers' summit in Bali, Indonesia, which Clinton also attended. The neighbors reached an agreement to push "as soon as possible" for the resumption of the six-party talks, North Korean nuclear representative Ri Yong Ho said.
South Korea's willingness to go along with that plan was especially significant, representing a softening of policy after one of the most violent years on the peninsula. In March 2010, North Korea allegedly torpedoed a South Korean warship, killing 46. It also shelled a border-area island, killing four more people, and unveiled a uranium-enrichment facility to a visiting U.S. scientist.