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S. Korea, 4 nations hope for early nuke talks: official

All Headlines 14:51 January 26, 2015

SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and four parties to the six-way talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program share the need to break the stalled process for Pyongyang's denuclearization as early as possible, a Seoul official said Monday.

The multilateral talks on North Korea's nuke programs -- involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia -- have been dormant since late 2008, when Pyongyang walked away from the bargaining table.

The official at Seoul's foreign ministry said that the five parties, except for North Korea, have agreed on three principles for North Korea's denuclearization.

"The five parties have believed that there is the need to break the status quo as North Korea has been advancing its nuclear capabilities," the ranking official told reporters, asking not to be named.

"They also shared the view that the process for the denuclearization talks should be resumed as early as possible and the parties need to continue to explore creative ways to kick-start such a process."

His remarks come as the top nuclear envoys from Seoul, Washington and Tokyo plan to hold talks in Tokyo Wednesday to discuss ways to resume the long-stalled six-party talks on the North's nuclear programs.

South Korea's foreign ministry said in its 2015 policy plan that Seoul will do its best to create a "virtuous circle" involving North Korea's denuclearization and improved inter-Korean ties.

"South Korea will spearhead efforts to launch the six-party talks for North Korea's complete denuclearization," the official added.

The trilateral meetings comes as the relations between the U.S. and North Korea have been deteriorated as the U.S. imposed fresh sanctions on the North early this month following the North's alleged hacking on Sony Pictures.

There are growing concerns here that Washington's tough stance on the North may hamper Seoul's efforts to improve its ties with Pyongyang at a time when South Korea is awaiting response from the North over its overture.

The Seoul official dismissed the view that the U.S. shut its door for dialogue with North Korea, saying that Washington's pressure is aimed at prodding Pyongyang into changing its course toward denuclearization.

"It would be a misunderstanding to say that Washington closes its doors on dialogue with the North," the official added. "South Korea and the U.S. are pursuing two-track strategies of pressure and dialogue. This is aimed at luring North Korea into making the right choice."

The U.S. State Department said that inter-Korean talks could help bring the North back to genuine denuclearization talks, stressing that there is "no daylight" between Seoul and Washington on efforts to improve inter-Korean ties.

North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013. Pyongyang has called for the resumption of the six-party talks without preconditions following its third nuclear test in February 2013. But Seoul and Washington have insisted that the North should first show its sincere commitment toward denuclearization.

The North offered on Jan. 10 to temporarily halt nuclear tests if the U.S. suspends its annual military exercises with South Korea this year, a proposal flatly rejected by Seoul and Washington.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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