US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Friday that North Korea can expect no change in its relationship with Washington if the regime continues to insult, provoke and shut out dialogue with South Korea.
Criticizing the "tyranny" in Stalinist North Korea while praising Seoul's calm response to threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang, Clinton said Washington stands united with its longtime ally when it comes to relations on the tense Korean peninsula. "North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the United States while insulting and refusing dialogue with the Republic of Korea," she said at a joint news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan on the third leg of her maiden voyage overseas as Washington's top diplomat.
Clinton also is expected to meet on Friday with President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Han Seung-soo to discuss the global economic crisis, climate change and bilateral issues before continuing onto Beijing. She met earlier with Gen. Walter Sharp, the top US military commander in South Korea, who has 37,000 US troops in the country.
Her visit comes amid heightened tensions between the two Koreas, whose relations have plummeted since Lee, a conservative, took office a year ago pledging to take a harder line on North Korea than his liberal predecessors. The two Koreas technically remain at war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty.
Pyongyang has cut off relations with Seoul and in recent weeks has accused the South of plotting to invade the North, warning that it is prepared to fight back. The South has denied plotting any invasion and has urged the North to return to reconciliation talks. Clinton urged the North to halt its campaign of threats. "We are calling on the government of North Korea to refrain from being provocative and unhelpful in a war of words they engaged in because it is not fruitful," she said.
She also announced that former Ambassador Steven Bosworth would serve as her special envoy on North Korea.
"North Korean behavior presents a number of foreign policy challenges for the United States, the region and the world," she said. "So we need a capable and experienced diplomat to lead our efforts to stem the risks of North Korea's nuclear ambitions and proliferation of sensitive weapons technology, and its human rights and humanitarian challenges."
Bosworth is a former senior State Department official who knows South Korea well from his days as ambassador. He currently is dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Yu, the foreign minister, said he and Clinton agreed the two countries cannot accept North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons under any circumstances.