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(LEAD) U.S. supports S. Korea's policy on N. Korea: Campbell

All Headlines 17:12 June 10, 2011

(ATTN: ADDS last 5 paras with Wi's trip to China, Lognivov's talks with Wi; ADDS photo at bottom)

SEOUL, June 10 (Yonhap) -- The United States supports South Korea's view that inter-Korean dialogue should take place before the resumption of talks between Washington and Pyongyang or the stalled six-party denuclearization talks, a senior Washington official said Friday.

"We believe that the essential approach that South Korea has laid out is the right one. We would like to see a resumption of talks and dialogue, but we also believe that the South Korean approach will bear fruit," Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told reporters.

Campbell arrived in Seoul earlier in the day on the final leg of his Asia tour that also took him to China, Mongolia and Indonesia. He met with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin for discussions on a range of issues, including their joint strategy toward North Korea, the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and their joint probe into allegations that the U.S. military buried the toxic defoliant Agent Orange at one of its former bases in South Korea.

In the meeting between Campbell and Deputy Foreign Minister Kim, the sides agreed on a June 24 visit to Washington by the foreign minister at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the officials said in their joint meeting with reporters.

"He graciously accepted and he will be coming ... for intense consultations in terms of the next steps with respect to our joint strategy on North Korea and other matters in Northeast Asia, including the ASEAN regional forum and upcoming East Asia summit," Campbell said.

Speaking of his trip to Beijing earlier in the week, Campbell said China was also in support of South Korea's policy toward North Korea, despite Pyongyang's recent threats to cut off all relations with Seoul.

"We have many areas that are common between the United States and China, and South Korea and China, but also a few areas of difference. But I think we all agreed that there has to be improvement between the North and the South, and I think China wants to take efforts to help support that process," he said. "In all of our meetings, we urged China to make best efforts to encourage North Korea to improve relations with South Korea."

He also said the Chinese were surprised by North Korea's sudden divulgence last week of a series of secret meetings it had with the South starting in May. The North's state media claimed it was begged by the South for summit meetings between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

"Kim Jong-il, I think as you know, had recently been in China, and when he was there I don't think the North Koreans gave any indication that they were about to so abruptly break off contact and so publicly with South Korea," Campbell said. "I think we expressed our concerns and I think all of our Chinese interlocutors ... indicated that they had no knowledge in advance that such steps were being contemplated."

"I think it would be fair to say that the Chinese interlocutors were concerned by the disruption in talks and a little surprised, and very much want to see improvement in dialogue between the North and the South, and we've encouraged that process as well."

On the possible resumption of food aid to the North, which has recently made a series of appeals for assistance from the international community, Campbell said the U.S. is still reviewing data of the food situation there.

"We did very clearly communicate to South Korean friends that no decision has been taken and that under any circumstances we will coordinate closely in advance with South Korea as we go forward," he said.

Campbell also met with Seoul's chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac for further discussions on the North before returning to the U.S. later in the day.

Wi returned Thursday from Beijing after meeting with Wu Dawei, his Chinese counterpart at the six-party talks that also include North Korea, Japan, Russia and the U.S. The six-way negotiations, which aim to dismantle the North's nuclear weapons programs through economic and political incentives, have been stalled since December 2008.

China, North Korea's major communist ally and benefactor, seemed to take a step back from its earlier position of giving full support to the so-called three-step approach that places inter-Korean dialogue before talks between Washington and Pyongyang and the six-party forum, according to a foreign ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"We got the impression that China was influenced by the reality" of North Korea's recent threats and accusations against Seoul, the official told reporters. "They seemed to indicate that (circumstances have) turned difficult. But they, too, agreed on the need for and importance of inter-Korean dialogue and said they would work to make it happen."

Moscow's deputy nuclear envoy, Grigory Logvinov, also met with Wi in Seoul earlier Friday to discuss the next steps in dealing with Pyongyang.

"Russia also agrees with us on our approach. They expressed their support for the process of (resuming) inter-Korean dialogue," the ministry official said.


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