"The North Korea issue," said Stephen Bosworth, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, "is one of the most important foreign policy challenges of our time. North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile program and proliferation activity pose an acute threat to a region of enormous vitality as well as to our global nonproliferation efforts and to our security interests."
North Korea has repeatedly reneged on its international commitments and obligations. When he entered office, President Barack Obama expressed a willingness to engage North Korea. It responded by conducting missile tests, expelling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, announcing that it had conducted a nuclear test, and disclosing a uranium enrichment program.
Matters have only deteriorated further in the last year with North Korea’s sinking of the South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, in May and the artillery attack on Yeonpyong Island in November.
The United States continues to demonstrate its commitment to deter North Korean provocations, said Ambassador Bosworth, through joint military exercises with South Korea. The U.S. has also adopted new unilateral sanctions targeting North Korean illicit activities and continues to work with the international community to implement multilateral sanctions against North Korea.
The United States believes that North-South talks are an important opportunity for North Korea to demonstrate its sincerity and willingness to engage in dialogue. Ultimately, if North Korea fulfills its denuclearization commitments, Japan, the U.S., China, Russia, and South Korea, are prepared to provide economic assistance and help North Korea to integrate into the international community.
In the meantime, the U.S. is working to improve the implementation of unilateral and international sanctions on North Korea to constrain its nuclear and missile programs. U.S. authorities are now targeting North Korea's conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction-related proliferation activities.
At the same time the U.S. remains deeply concerned about the well-being of the North Korean people, particularly in light of chronic food shortages. Moreover, the human rights situation inside North Korea remains one of the worst in the world. "Any long-term improvement in U.S.- North Korea relations," said Ambassador Bosworth, "will be contingent, among several factors, on [North Korea] making a serious effort to address human rights issues."
"The door is open to Pyongyang to join and benefit from such an effort but only if it abandons the misguided notion that violence, threats, and provocation are the path toward achievement of its goals."