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S. Korea, U.S. agree denuclearization top priority in any talks with N. Korea: Seoul's nuclear envoy

All News 01:40 March 11, 2016

WASHINGTON, March 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States are in firm agreement that denuclearization should be the top priority in whatever talks may take place with North Korea, Seoul's new chief nuclear envoy said Thursday.

Kim Hong-kyun, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, also said upon arrival in Washington that the two allies share the view that it's not time to talk about dialogue with Pyongyang, but it's time to focus on sanctions.

"Both the South and the U.S. have the common position that in conducting any talks with North Korea, denuclearization is the highest priority," Kim told reporters.

China has proposed to pursue peace treaty talks with the North in tandem with denuclearization negotiations as a way to defuse heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula in the wake of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.

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 South and the U.S. are in agreement that now is the time to focus on sanctions, and it's not time to talk about dialogue," Kim said.

It is Kim's first visit to the U.S. since taking office last week as Seoul's chief nuclear envoy. He's scheduled to hold talks Friday with his U.S. counterpart, Amb. Sung Kim, special representative for North Korea policy, and other U.S. officials.

Kim said he plans to exchange assessments of the situation with U.S. officials and discuss ways to get the North to change its behavior based on a common position to deal sternly with the North's nuclear development and provocations.

The envoy said he does not rule out the possibility of additional North Korean provocations.

Kim said his discussions will also include a new set of unilateral sanctions the U.S. is expected to impose on the North in the near future.


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