Two U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday appealed for North Korea to return to six-nation nuclear disarmament talks as they set off on an official trip to Pyongyang.
The visit by U.S. Reps. Tom Lantos and James Leach came after North Korea postponed its return to the talks by two weeks, blaming U.S.-South Korean military exercises and Washington's appointment of a human rights envoy. The talks had been due to resume this week.
"We are headed to Pyongyang to attempt to clarify the remaining problems and urge the North Korean government to return to the talks in two weeks with a very positive outlook and approach," said Lantos, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.
Lantos and Leach stressed in a written statement that they were visiting the North "as representatives of the American people, not as negotiators for the United States."
Negotiators took a three-week recess earlier this month after failing to agree on a statement of basic principles. The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
The North's Foreign Ministry said Monday it will return the week of Sept. 12. The ministry said it refused to talk in the midst of U.S.-South Korean military exercises that run through Friday, and it complained about Washington's appointment of an envoy on human rights in North Korea.
"A delay does not serve well the North Korean people," said Leach, a Republican who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18