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N. Korea seeks both nuclear status and normalized ties: military chief

All Headlines 13:00 December 14, 2009

By Sam Kim

SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to be holding on to its ambition to be recognized as a nuclear state despite its pursuit of normalized relations with the outside world, South Korea's top general said Monday.

"It is our assessment that North Korea has not altered its strategic goal of simultaneously securing the status of a nuclear state and the stability of its regime through the normalization of North-U.S. relations," Lee Sang-eui, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a forum in Seoul.

His comments came after a U.S. special envoy flew to Pyongyang last week and held the first direct talks between his country and North Korea since U.S. President Barack Obama took office early this year.

South Korean officials say North Korea is trying to secure the survival of its regime by forging a peace treaty with the U.S. and dispose of the truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

The U.S., which refuses to recognize the communist state as a nuclear state despite its two atomic tests since 2006, demands the North dismantle its nuclear weapons programs before any peace deal.

"Through the reinforcement of its nuclear capabilities, North Korea is strengthening its bargaining power against the U.S. and pursuing direct talks," Lee said, citing the May nuclear test.

Describing North Korea as "blowing hot and cold," Lee said North Korea is also seeking the improvement of its relations with South Korea, which is also a signatory to the 1953 truce.

"It is our projection that Kim will continue to tighten his control (over the country), and pursue improved ties with the U.S. as well as a softening of sanctions for economic gains," he said.


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