Leading Republican joins Democrats in calls for direct U.S.-North Korean talks
WASHINGTON – Two leading Republican senators joined Democrats on Sunday in calling for direct talks with North Korea aimed at easing a nuclear standoff.Sen. Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said direct talks, which the North long has coveted and which the Bush administration refuses, are “inevitable if this is to be resolved diplomatically.”Calls for such talks have grown louder following North Korea’s nuclear test Oct. 9 and as diplomats worry about a second detonation.The administration says it will only have such talks during six-nation negotiations meant to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs. Those talks have been stalled for nearly a year.GOP Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the “issue is serious enough with North Korea, with their having nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them, that I think we ought to use every alternative, including direct bilateral talks.”One day, said Lugar, R-Ind., an American president will be talking directly to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il “and his people and saying, in essence, in terms they can understand, ‘We are not going to overthrow you; we are not involved in regime change; you’re going to stay.’ … I hope it happens sooner rather than later.”Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday ended a weeklong trip to Asia and Russia to rally support for enforcing a U.N. Security Council resolution that punishes North Korea for the nuclear test.A report Sunday said Kim told a Chinese envoy that future nuclear tests will hinge on U.S. policy toward his country. Kim also said he thinks Washington is trying to crush North Korea with its hostile policy and complained about U.S. financial penalties, the Kyodo News agency in Japan reported.Sen. Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said Japan, Russia, China and South Korea – the other members of the six-nation talks – have privately urged the United States to allow direct talks with the North.Biden, D-Del., questioned what he said was the administration’s policy of trying to persuade the North to give up its nuclear bombs while also pursuing a change in government.”It’s either you want regime change or conduct change,” Biden said. “You don’t say to somebody: ‘By the way, put down the very thing that can keep us out of your hair militarily, and, by the way, after you put it down, we’re going to take you out.”‘Lawmakers from both parties linked the crisis in North Korea to Iran, with whom the United States also is in a nuclear standoff with. Lugar and Specter joined Biden in calling for direct talks with Iran.”Whether it’s deserved or not, there’s a big feeling around the world about ugly Americans,” Specter said. “Iran wants to be part of the nuclear club; North Korea wants to pound its chest. Well, let’s talk to them.”Sen. John Warner, however, supported Bush’s policy of keeping direct talks between North Korea and the United States within the framework of the deadlocked six-nation negotiations.”He’s been right: Leave it to the six. Because we do not want the other powers to point to us and say: ‘You didn’t handle this right, USA. It’s your fault; now you take care of the problem,”‘ said Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.Warner, Lugar and Biden appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” while Specter was on CNN’s “Late Edition.”
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