S. Korea, US press N. Korea to give up policy of confrontation
PHNOM PENH (Yonhap) -- South Korean and U.S. nuclear envoys discussed North Korea and reaffirmed they will not ease pressure on Pyongyang's new leadership until it gives up a policy of confrontation, a senior Seoul diplomat said Thursday.
Cho Hyun-dong, deputy South Korean envoy to the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program, held talks with his U.S. counterpart Clifford Hart on Wednesday evening ahead of the ASEAN Regional Forum, an annual venue for talks on security in Asia, the diplomat said.
"The envoys discussed a wide variety of issues on North Korea and shared views that the North must change its ways before resumption of stalled nuclear talks could take place," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
"While South Korea and the U.S. remain open to engagement with North Korea, we remain firm in our shared stance that North Korea must take actions to regain trust and demonstrate its sincerity," the diplomat said.
The talks between Cho and Hart came a day before South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba are scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of the forum.
Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions have been frozen since the North's April 13 launch of a long-range rocket.
Although the defiant launch ended in failure, it drew strong condemnation from the U.N. Security Council as a disguised test of ballistic missile technology and ended a Feb. 29 deal with the U.S. under which Washington would resume food aid to Pyongyang in return for a monitored shutdown of the North's nuclear activities.
There have been concerns North Korea may soon conduct a third nuclear test to make up for its failed launch, given that the North's previous two rocket launches in 2006 and 2009 were followed by nuclear tests.
Despite concerns over the North's provocations, the Seoul diplomat said dialogue with Pyongyang could resume if it demonstrates its sincerity through concrete actions.
Asked what specific actions North Korea should take, the diplomat replied, "We have maintained a stance of strategic ambiguity about that because we don't want to be dragged by North Korea, which wants to restore the Feb. 29 deal."
This week's ASEAN forum marked the first time that high-level diplomats from the two Koreas could have face-to-face meetings on the sidelines since the December death of North Korea's long-time ruler, Kim Jong-il. North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun arrived here Tuesday to attend the forum.
But, Seoul officials have said South Korea has no plans to hold a bilateral meeting with North Korea during the forum but left the door open for inter-Korean contact organized by an "unofficial channel."