Thursday, February 26, 2009

Special Envoy Headed to N.Korea in Lieu Of Possible Missile Test.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is sending her new envoy for North Korea policy to Asia early next week to work on reviving stalled international nuclear talks with an increasingly hostile Pyongyang.

The trip comes as North Korea threatens to punish anyone trying to disrupt a plan to conduct what the United States and South Korea believe may be a long-range missile test.

Clinton told reporters Thursday that Stephen Bosworth will travel to the capitals of four countries that have been working with Washington to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program — Japan, China, Russia and South Korea.

Bosworth said the United States plans to directly engage North Korea, but it is still unclear whether any meetings will happen on this trip.

Christopher Hill, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, later told reporters that Asian and U.S. officials are looking at the best way "to deter this launch." He dismissed North Korea's claims that it was preparing to conduct a satellite launch.

"It looks an awful lot like a missile launch, and the reason it looks a lot like a missile launch is because it essentially is a missile launch, whatever the payload," Hill said. Considering the North's "opaqueness," coupled with its claims that it has weaponized plutonium, he said, "you can see why we have some very deep concerns about the missile launch."

The North's potential test is seen as a bid for President Barack Obama's attention as six-nation nuclear disarmament talks remain stalled and tension with South Korea soars.

Any missile test would trigger international sanctions.

Bosworth, a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, traveled earlier this month to Pyongyang on a private trip. North Korea, he said, seems to want to continue talks with the United States. "They see the benefits to them of engagement with the outside world and are prepared to move ahead," he said.

Bosworth was named last week as the Obama administration's special representative for North Korea. He will be responsible for coordinating the overall U.S. policy for North Korea and will keep his position as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The State Department says another special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, w

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