US contemplating fresh engagement with North Korea

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Washington, Aug.28 (ANI): Even while keeping up its tough tone and posture towards North Korea, the United States has begun weighing the pros and cons of a fresh effort at engagement with that country's dictator, Kim Jong il.t a high-level meeting last week on North Korea, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton solicited ideas from outside experts and former officials about the next steps in policy toward the North.

According to the Washington Post, the consensus among the hawks was that the United States needed to resume some form of contact with Kim.

Clinton, the hawks said, expressed impatience with the current policy, which is based on ever more stringent economic sanctions and joint American-South Korean naval exercises - both in response to the sinking in March of a South Korean warship, for which South Korea blamed the North.

Among those advocating a fresh overture is Stephen W. Bosworth, the special envoy for North Korea.

"The question is, what are we going to do now?" said Joel S. Wit, a former State Department negotiator with North Korea who founded a Web site, 38 North, which follows North Korean politics.

"The answer is re-engagement. There aren't any other tools in the toolbox," he added.

Far from abandoning pressure tactics, officials said, the United States is likely to increase them.

In July, it announced new measures aimed at choking off sources of hard currency for the government and its allies.

Clinton sent a senior adviser, Robert J. Einhorn, to Asia to drum up support for the sanctions.

"We don't want to go down the old road and repeat the experiences of the past. We are looking for behavior change by the North Koreans," said Jeffrey A. Bader, senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

Kim's deteriorating health, and the succession struggle it has set off, have increased the pressure on the Obama administration to reach out.

While some officials argue that Washington can wait out the political transition, others fear that heightening the confrontation with North Korea could foreclose future opportunities for contact. (ANI)

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