The top U.S. envoy on North Korea, Christopher Hill, says the United States is willing to meet bilaterally with North Korea on the sidelines of informal six-party talks on its nuclear program. But he said a one-on-one meeting could not happen outside the six-nation talks process.
Hill made the comments while in South Korea, meeting with officials to coordinate a response to North Korea's test-launch of seven missiles on Wednesday and Thursday. He again rejected a North Korean demand that Washington lift financial sanctions against Pyongyang before resuming nuclear negotiations. Hill travels next to Japan and Russia.
Meanwhile, Japan's Kyodo news is quoting Chinese State Counselor Tang Jiaxuan as telling Japanese lawmakers China had no advance warning that North Korea was going to test the missiles. Of participants in the six-nation process China has the closest relationship with North Korea.
Earlier, Hill's South Korean counterpart, Chun Yung-Woo, said the missile launches should be treated as an opportunity to restart the talks.
Also on Saturday , a new U.S. military ship containing the latest missile-tracking and -destroying system has joined a fleet at Japan's Yokosuka military base.
Military officials say the missile tracking system is the same system that was used to assess North Korea's missile launches Wednesday and Thursday.
On Friday, diplomats at the United Nations said there will be no Security Council vote until at least Monday on a binding resolution authorizing sanctions against North Korea until at least Monday.
It calls on member states to prevent the transfer to North Korea of any type of material that could be used in missiles or weapons of mass destruction. It also instructs North Korea to immediately stop developing, deploying and testing ballistic missiles, and to return to six-party negotiations on its nuclear program.
Security Council veto-holders China and Russia had pushed for milder wording in the document. But U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said sentiment among Council members for the stronger resolution was overwhelming.
President Bush said Friday he wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but recognizes that arriving at a common goal and message can be a slow and cumbersome process.