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Denuclearization 'paramount goal,' 'focus' of any talks with N. Korea: State Department

All Headlines 01:15 March 09, 2016

WASHINGTON, March 8 (Yonhap) -- Ending North Korea's nuclear programs remains the "paramount goal" of the U.S. policy on Pyongyang and will be the "focus" of any talks with the communist nation, the State Department said Tuesday.

The statement clears up questions about the U.S. commitment to pursue denuclearization ahead of anything else, after spokesman John Kirby said last week the U.S. does not rule out the possibility of a "parallel process" by which it holds peace treaty talks with the North in tandem with denuclearization negotiations.

Signing a peace treaty, which would replace the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War, has been one of Pyongyang's long-running goals, but the U.S. and South Korea have demanded the North abandon its nuclear program first.

The issue resurfaced recently as China proposed to pursue peace treaty talks and denuclearization negotiations with North Korea at the same time as a way to defuse tensions heightened in the wake of the North's nuclear and missile tests.

"The paramount goal of U.S. policy on North Korea has been and remains the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner," State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams said in response to a query from Yonhap News Agency.

Adams said the U.S. has consistently told Pyongyang that it remains open to authentic and credible negotiations based on the agreement reached with all members of the six-party talks in September 2005, in which the North promised to give up its nuclear program in exchange for political and economic concessions.

"We have insisted that denuclearization remain the focus of any talks, and we have made clear that the DPRK's complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization is our overriding priority," she said.

The six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean standoff have been stalled since late 2008. The U.S. and South Korea have demanded that Pyongyang first take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitments in order for the talks to reopen, but the North has refused to do so.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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