Jeffrey LewisSix Party Talks Resume September 13

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang announced that North Korea would return to Six Party Talks on September 13.

Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post reports that John Lewis, Sig Hecker and Jack Pritchard have returned from a trip to North Korea and briefed SECSTATE that North Korea will insist on its “right” to the peaceful use of nuclear power:

During the talks with Lewis and Hecker, North Korean officials made it clear that they intend to insist that the statement of principles acknowledge North Korea’s right to peaceful use of nuclear power, according to Charles L. “Jack” Pritchard, a former State Department Korea expert, who accompanied the two men.

To varying degrees, South Korea, China and Russia have supported the North Korean position, while Japan has backed the U.S. stance that North Korea’s behavior gives it no right to even a peaceful program, except for research for medical, agricultural or industrial use.

“The North Koreans saw a chink in the armor,” Pritchard said. “They have concluded this is a winning argument.”

Kessler notes the Administration is divided over whether North Korea could be allowed to keep a civilian nuclear program. In August, Ambassador Chris Hill told Margaret Warner on PBS that North Korea’s “right” to a civilian nuclear power program became an issue toward the end of the last round.

When she asked if the Administration would accept “any [North Korean civilian] nuclear capability at all,” Ambassador Hill smartly punted:

Well, that’s a pretty direct statement, and in my line of work, let me just point out we have some remaining differences on this issue, to be sure.