WASHINGTON -- Raising hopes for a new era of rapprochement with nuclear-armed North Korea, the Obama administration said yesterday it would sit down with the reclusive regime for a fresh round of atomic weapons talks and appoint a full-time envoy with the task of persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program.
Disarmament efforts are saddled with a history of deceit and mistrust, but the meetings on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva represent another step forward after last year's military attacks on South Korea that led to threats of war. They are the second set of nuclear discussions between the United States and North Korea since July, after a three-year freeze in diplomacy.
"We want to see a seriousness of purpose and a commitment to moving this process forward to taking the steps that they've already committed to take," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in Washington.
As Washington intensifies its engagement of Pyongyang, it is turning to seasoned diplomat Glyn Davies to lead the efforts. Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, will replace Stephen Bosworth, though both will be meeting next week with the North Korean delegation.
The United States and its ally South Korea are pressing familiar demands. Toner said the United States wants North Korea to adhere to a 2005 agreement it later reneged on, which required the North's verifiable denuclearization in exchange better relations with its Asian neighbors, energy assistance and a pledge from Washington that it wouldn't attack the isolated country. U.S. officials are also looking for the North to show that it won't launch any new military actions against the South.