KOREA-NORTH/WASHINGTON – Republican Senator John McCain says North Korea was attempting to use former President Bill Clinton’s visit for propaganda purposes and enhance the prestige of Pyongyang.

In an interview with Reuters, McCain said the Obama administration should resist any temptation to engage in direct talks with the North Koreans but instead should push North Korea to rejoin stalled six-party negotiations over its nuclear program.

The six-party talks include the United States and North and South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

McCain, the Republican candidate in last year’s presidential election won by Barack Obama, said he believes all Americans appreciate Clinton’s role in securing the release of two American journalists and sparing them from “the worst gulag in the world, with conditions that would make Stalin blush.”

“The question is, will this signal a change in North Korean behavior?” McCain said, recalling that a visit by former President Jimmy Carter to North Korean in 1994 led to hopes for a change but did not produce lasting progress.