President Lee Myung-bak, right, shakes hands with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to their talks at Cheong Wa Dae, Friday. / Yonhap
By Jung Sung-ki
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged North Korea Friday to stop its campaign of threats, including preparations to test-launch a ballistic missile.
In a joint news conference following talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan in Seoul, Clinton also warned North Korea of its recent threatening rhetoric against South Korea.
``North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the United States while insulting and refusing dialogue with the Republic of Korea,'' she said. ``We are calling on the government of North Korea to refrain from being provocative and unhelpful in the war of words that it has been engaged in because that is not very fruitful.''
Experts here said her tougher remarks against North Korea than those made during a speech to the Asia Society before her regional trip was aimed at relieving lingering worries here that South Korea might be isolated if North Korea resorts to bilateral talks with the United States.
In the speech in New York, Clinton said her government was ready to normalize ties with North Korea and replace the armistice on the Korean Peninsula with a permanent peace treaty if the North abandons its nuclear weapons program. She also pledged energy and other economic assistance to a denuclearized North Korea.
The communist state recently said it would suspend its compliance with all treaties it has signed with the South, blaming the Lee Myung-bak administration in the South in a typical rhetorical blast, which some experts say aims to draw the attention of the U.S. administration of President Barack Obama.
On Thursday, North Korea said it was ``ready for war with the South.'' The statement came following the announcement by the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command on joint military exercises next month and hours ahead of Clinton's visit to Seoul.
Clinton, who was visiting here on the third leg of her first overseas trip as Washington's top diplomat, called on Pyongyang not to proceed with its planned test-launch of a ballistic missile that not only violates a 2006 U.N. resolution and but also could jeopardize the six-party denuclearization process.
Clinton said, ``It is clear that North Korea is required to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program.
U.N. Resolution 1718 prohibiting the North's ballistic missile activities was adopted in 2006 after North Korea test-launched several missiles, including a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile believed to have a range of 6,700 kilometers and capable of hitting Alaska.
North Korea is currently preparing to test-fire a Taepodong-2 missile, according to U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities, amid the deadlock with the six-way negotiations, involving the United States, the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia.
Later in the day, Clinton paid a courtesy call on President Lee Myung-bak at Cheong Wa Dae.
Clinton conveyed U.S. President Barack Obama's wish to hold bilateral talks with Lee at the upcoming G-20 meeting in April in London, said officials at the presidential office.
Lee stressed the need for the strengthening of relations between South Korea and the United States, as well as those with Japan, China and Russia to resolve the North Korean issue.
Clinton responded the U.S. government was also ``very much looking forward'' to working with its Asian ally to overcome international security issues such as North Korea's nuclear program, as well as addressing the world economic turmoil.
``We will try to convince the North Koreans to begin a process within the six-party talks toward the complete and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons,'' Clinton said during Friday's conference.
Minister Yu made it clear that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons was unacceptable and urged North Korea to return to the negotiating table for complete and verifiable disablement of its nuclear program.
In addition to the North Korean issue, Yu and Clinton discussed ways to overcome the global financial crisis and combat climate change, as well as the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS-FTA), which has yet to be ratified by both legislatures in South Korea and the United States, the ministry said in a press release.
The two sides also discussed joint efforts to help stabilize terrorism-ridden Afghanistan and other matters related to the alliance, it said.