The delegation, led by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), vice chairman of the Armed Services Committee, expressed its concerns in a Feb. 10 letter to Kim.
“We are frustrated,” Weldon told The Hill yesterday as he recounted his delegation’s 10-hour meeting with Kim and his ministers Jan. 14. “They emphatically said they wanted to return to the six-party table.”
The letter, signed by Weldon and five other members, said, “During our visit, we were clearly led to believe that the DPRNK [Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea] would return to the six-party talks with the conditions being based on the State of the Union address and assurances that the U.S. would not initiate a military attack on the DPRK.”
But that was before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to North Korea as “an outpost of tyranny” during her confirmation hearings and before North Korean leader Kim Jong Il announced last week that North Korea possesses nuclear weapons.
Nevertheless, Weldon said the United States should use Kim Jong Il’s announcement as a reason to pressure North Korea back to the negotiating table.
“This is not a reason for us to panic and offer them incentives,” he said. “They are posturing to get the maximum leverage with China and Japan.”
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (D-Md.) said the North Koreans “told us that the big difference now and 18 months ago is that they are nuclear-capable,” adding, “We knew that.”
Bartlett said that he was not surprised that the North Koreans reacted because of the vast cultural differences, adding. “We apparently don’t understand this country.”
Rep. Fred Upton (D-Mich.) said he was stunned by North Korea’s decision to abandon the six-party talks. “It is imperative that as much pressure [as possible] be brought to bear to bring them back to the table,” he said.
“The ball is in their court,” said Upton. “I’m most anxious to see their response” to the letter.
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who accompanied Weldon on his first trip to North Korea, in May 2002, said the North Koreans’ new stance “shows their fear and desperation.” He said that the only way the problem with North Korea can be solved is through multilateral negotiations.
Weldon said he hopes to schedule a meeting in North Korea in the near future with parliamentary leaders of Russia, Japan, South Korea, China and North Korea, as well as United Nations officials, to encourage resumption of the multilateral talks.
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who had also accompanied Weldon on his 2002 trip and who visited China during Weldon’s January trip, said he hopes China will take a leading role in resolving the problem.
North Korea “is such an erratic regime, it’s hot and cold,” Wilson said. “China should intervene. … [North Korea] can be catastrophically disruptive to their economy.”
Bartlett predicted that the North Koreans will come back to the negotiating table but said it would take a lot of effort by the United States to persuade them to do so.
“If we take 20 steps apart, they are not going to take 19 steps,” he said. “We are going to have to take small steps, one at a time.”
Other members of Weldon’s delegation include Reps. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).