Yun, Kerry say dialogue still possible with North

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Yun, Kerry say dialogue still possible with North

Despite “reckless” provocations coming out of North Korea on a daily basis, top foreign affairs envoys of Seoul and Washington agreed that the door remains open for Pyongyang to return to multilateral nuclear disarmament talks.

But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the Unites States will not accept Pyongyang “as a nuclear state” in a joint press conference in Washington Tuesday with Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se. It was their first meeting since each assumed his post in the last few weeks.

Hours before, North Korea vowed to restart its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, including a five-megawatt graphite-moderated reactor, that had been halted following a 2007 agreement at the six-party talks. There is also a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon, which Pyongyang said would be used for nuclear weapons this week.

Kerry said the act would be a “direct violation of [Pyongyang’s] international obligations” and “completely contrary to the road that we have traveled all of these years from the [1994] Agreed Framework forward.

“What Kim Jong-un has been choosing to do is provocative, it is dangerous, reckless, and the United States will not accept the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] as a nuclear state,” he emphasized.

President Obama does not take “lightly” what has been happening, Kerry said, and the U.S. decision to deploy warships and fighter planes in Korean waters was meant to “send a very clear signal to our allies and the North alike that the United States will defend our allies.”

But the two envoys agreed that Pyongyang could always return to dialogue with the members of the six-party talks - the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas - echoing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s plea earlier for dialogue and negotiations, which Ban said were “the only way to resolve the current crisis” in a situation “made worse by the lack of communication.”

“If North Korea decides to give up its nuclear ambitions and to become a member of the international community, we are prepared to resume talks,” Yun said at the press briefing.

The members of the six-party talks and the Security Council, Yun said, maintain that the talks are “still a very useful tool to implement” and to “actually make efforts towards denuclearization of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.”

The six-party talks, initiated a decade ago, have been stalled since Pyongyang walked away from them in April 2009 prior to its second nuclear test the following month.

“The United States believes there is a very simple way for North Korea to rejoin the community of nations and make it clear that they want to pursue a peaceful path,” said Kerry. “They can come back to the table and join all of those other countries, including their nearest neighbor and partner, China.”

Kerry and Yun also discussed other key bilateral issues as the two countries celebrate 60 years of bilateral relations such as the bilateral free trade agreement and pending negotiations to revise the 1974 nuclear accord, which expires next March.

Yun said he emphasized to Kerry the “importance of revising the Korea-U.S. civil nuclear cooperation agreement in a mutually beneficial, timely, and forward-looking manner.” Seoul is pushing for the U.S. to lift its ban on Korea reprocessing its spent fuel and enriching uranium.

Kerry added that he had a “good discussion” with Yun on the issue.


By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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