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Posted : 2009-06-03 17:41
Updated : 2009-06-03 17:41

Allies Urge N. Korea to Choose Dialogue

By Kim Sue-young
Staff Reporter

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg called on North Korea to choose dialogue over further provocative actions, Wednesday.

``I think we have a common view that we need to take steps to make clear to the North that the path it's on is the wrong one,'' he told reporters after an hour-long meeting with First Vice Foreign Minister Kwon Jong-rak in Seoul.

Steinberg, who is on a four-day visit to South Korea, leads an inter-agency delegation on a mission to review the aftermath of North Korea's second nuclear test on May 25.

The deputy secretary said he and Kwon agreed to cooperate in resolving the North Korean threat, particularly its nuclear test and the firing of short-range missiles.

Steinberg said if Pyongyang responds to a dialogue, it would lead to the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. delegations includes Ambassador Joseph DeTrani, North Korea mission manager for the director of the National Intelligence Agency; Vice Admiral James Winnefeld of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey; Stephen Bosworth, special representative on North Korea policy; and Defense Assistant Secretary Wallace Gregson.

Referring to his high-profile mission, Steinberg said that it reflects the strong U.S. commitment to common security.

South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kwon said that dispatching the U.S. delegation sends an important signal to North Korea as well as the international community.

Steinberg said the two sides discussed the need to work together to cover all contingencies and reaffirmed the necessity to convince Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table.

``Now is the time for North Korea, rather than continuing to make more dangerous and provocative actions, to recognize the better course is to reengage and to get back on the path of negotiations toward the denuclearization,'' he said.

Asked about possible financial sanctions on North Korea, the American official said they had discussed a range of options.

``There are discussions in New York to look at the kinds of action to take. I don't want to rule in or rule out specifics right now except to say that here we're focused less on specific actions and more on our long-term strategy and how to proceed with it,'' he said.

In regard to reports on changes in North Korea's leadership, Steinberg said they focused on ways to continue to work together ``no matter what happens in North Korea.''

``We can build on a strong bilateral relationship to work with our partners in Tokyo, Russia and China to make sure that we have a common path,'' he said.

On Tuesday, South Korea's National Intelligence Service confirmed reports that Kim Jong-un, third son of North Korea leader Kim Jong-il, will replace his father as leader of the secretive state.

The U.S. delegation is scheduled to leave for Beijing Friday, a day after paying a courtesy call on President Lee Myung-bak, who will hold a summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, June 16.

ksy@koreatimes.co.kr

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