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Doors to dialogue open for North Korea: U.S. diplomat

All Headlines 14:20 August 26, 2011

By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. is open to dialogue with North Korea, a U.S. diplomat said Friday, calling on Pyongyang to show sincerity in reviving the long-stalled six-nation talks on dismantling its nuclear programs.

"This process depends on the decisions and actions of North Korea," said Mark Tokola, deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, during a forum on the Korean Peninsula issue held in downtown Seoul.

The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, Russia and China began in 2003 with an aim to end Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions through peaceful negotiations but have been stalled since 2009 when Pyongyang quit them.

During a summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il expressed his intent to suspend nuclear tests and to rejoin the multilateral talks without preconditions, the latest of his repeated expressions of willingness to return to the table.

In late July, North Korea and the U.S. held rare high-level meetings in New York on how to resume the multilateral talks. The New York meeting followed talks between the chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and North Korea in Indonesia in which they agreed to make joint efforts to reopen the six-party talks.

"We hope to see a seriousness of purpose by the DPRK, in which it engages in negotiations with sincerity and is prepared for such negotiations to be constructive," he said, citing the official name of the communist nation. "We are not interested in negotiations for the sake of saying that we are having negotiations."

The diplomat also stressed the U.S. commitment to cooperating with Seoul and other member countries of the six-party talks "to press the DPRK to choose a positive path," adding the multilateral talks are the best framework as "no one nation on its own can solve the proliferation threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program."

In terms of the bilateral economic relations between Seoul and Washington, Tokola emphasized the importance of the free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, which has been awaiting approval from the legislatures of the two countries after being signed in June 2007.

"We have a deeply linked economic relationship, a relationship that will be even stronger with the ratification of the KORUS FTA," he said. "I can think of nothing else that would more effectively bind our two countries together."


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