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S. Korean, U.S. nuclear envoys hold talks amid growing N. Korean threats

All Headlines 02:32 March 12, 2016

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, March 11 (Yonhap) -- The chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and the United States held talks Friday about how to deal with North Korea as the communist nation has been ratcheting up tensions with nuclear and missile threats.

It was the first time that Kim Hong-kyun, Seoul's new special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, has met with his U.S. counterpart, Amb. Sung Kim, special representative for North Korea policy, since he took office last week.

The talks in Washington came as Pyongyang has sharply been ramping up nuclear and missile threats as South Korea and the U.S. have been conducting joint annual military exercises that the North has denounced as a rehearsal for invasion.

The North has threatened preemptive strikes, conducted banned short-range missile launches, and unveiled photos of what it claimed was a miniaturized nuclear warhead. On Friday, leader Kim Jong-un also called for bolstering nuclear capabilities with more tests.

In Friday's talks, the two nuclear envoys were expected to discuss ways to increase pressure on Pyongyang, such as implementing the recently adopted U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution and imposing additional unilateral sanctions.

They were also expected to reaffirm that denuclearization should be the top priority in any talks with the North.

Upon arriving in Washington on Thursday, the South Korean envoy said that the two countries share the view that it's not time to talk about dialogue with Pyongyang as it's time to focus on sanctions.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency earlier this week, the U.S. envoy also said that Washington is "completely focused" on denuclearization when it comes to the North, and any talks with the North should start with enuclearization.

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.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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