The nominee to be the next US ambassador to South Korea voiced doubt that North Korea was prepared to return to serious negotiations despite its appeals for talks.
“We’re not convinced that they really are ready to return to serious diplomacy and negotiations,” Sung Kim, who is now the special envoy to moribund six-nation talks, told a Senate hearing on his nomination to Seoul.
“This is why I think Seoul and Washington have both been very cautious in just rushing back to the negotiating table.
North Korea pulled out of the six-nation talks in 2009, accusing the United States of hostility. It then tested a nuclear bomb and last year fired on a civilian island in the South and allegedly sank a vessel, incidents that killed 50 people.
North Korea and China, its main ally, have both since called for a resumption of the talks. But the United States has urged Pyongyang to first show its clear commitment to previous denuclearization agreements and to lower tensions with South Korea.
President Barack Obama’s administration has described its policy as “strategic patience” — waiting for North Korea to come around without the United States conceding ground.
Kim, who is expected to win Senate confirmation, would be the first Korean American envoy to Seoul. His nomination came after Obama named Gary Locke, now commerce secretary, to be the first Chinese American ambassador to Beijing.
Some Asian American advocates have described the nominations as historic as the community has long voiced concern that it is perceived as perpetually foreign.
“When my parents brought me to the United States over 35 years ago, they could not have imagined that I would have the opportunity to serve as the first Korean American ambassador to the Republic of Korea,” Kim said.
Kim said he would use his unique position to encourage people exchanges including in the arts, academia and sports.