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(LEAD) U.S. expresses support for 5-way N. Korea denuclearization talks

All News 20:30 January 23, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with comments by presidential official)

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Saturday reiterated its calls for coordination with regional powers over North Korea's nuclear programs as the U.S. voiced its support for five-way nuclear talks.

North Korea vowed to scrap its nuclear program in return for diplomatic concessions and economic aid under a landmark 2005 nuclear deal with South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

Still, the North later backtracked from its commitment and conducted four nuclear tests, including one earlier this month.

The fourth nuclear test has sent a clear signal that Pyongyang has no intent to drop its nuclear ambition. It has also raised questions about the effectiveness of the six-nation talks, which have been stalled since late 2008.

"It would be effective in the North Korean nuclear issue if the participating countries in the six-way talks, excluding North Korea, put pressure on North Korea," a senior presidential official said.

The official said the proposed five-way talks are meant to coordinate their stance within the framework of the six-party talks, citing North Korea's lack of willingness for denuclearization.

The comments came as the U.S. threw its weight behind President Park Geun-hye's idea of holding five-way talks excluding North Korea.

"The United States supports President Park's call for a five-party meeting. We believe coordination with the other parties would be a useful step in our ongoing efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula through credible and authentic negotiations," a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Seoul said in a statement earlier in the day.

On Friday, Park proposed holding a five-way meeting as she called for "diverse and creative approaches" to resolve the North's nuclear dispute.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called Friday for the "relevant parties" to "restart the six-party talks at an early date," in a thinly veiled rejection of Park's offer.

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