US envoy for talks with North Korea on nukes

Associated Press

SOEUL: A top envoy said on Saturday the US remains ready for talks with North Korea, a day after Washington warned of aggressive sanctions against the North unless it returns

to stalled multinational

talks on ending its nuclear programmes.

“Under the right circumstances, we’d be prepared to sit down with North Korea if they would abandon their nuclear ambitions,” Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, told reporters in South Korea today.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Campbell was referring to direct bilateral meetings, which North Korea has sought, or talks within a six-nation framework that had been ongoing before North Korea abandoned the process in April. He also said there have to be “consequences” for North Korea’s recent provocative actions.

Before flying to Seoul, he met Japanese officials in Tokyo and agreed to increase efforts to encourage North Korea to return to the disarmament talks.

Campbell was to meet his South Korean counterpart later in the day and Seoul’s foreign minister and its top nuclear envoy on Monday.

The trip to the Asian allies comes as the US is moving to enforce UN, as well as its own sanctions, against North Korea for its May 25 nuclear test.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley urged North Korea on Friday to return to the nuclear talks and begin taking irreversible steps towards denuclearisation.

He also warned that the US will continue pressuring North Korea into giving up its nuclear programmes, saying Washington is “aggressively implementing” the UN sanctions.

The six-nation talks came to a halt in April when North Korea withdrew to protest a UN statement condemning what North Korea said was a satellite launch. The US and its allies said the launch was actually a long-range missile test. The talks — which involve the two Koreas, the US, Japan, China and Russia — were last held in Beijing in December.

Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s No 2 official, said this week that his country is not ready to resume nuclear disarmament talks because the US and its allies do not respect its sovereignty.

North Korea’s “nuclear weapon is not for invading or threatening others but is war deterrence for defending the peace and security on the Korean peninsula,”

he said in a speech on Wednesday.