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N. Korea should freeze nuclear activities if it wants negotiations: senior U.S. diplomat

All Headlines 05:34 April 05, 2016

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, April 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea should freeze all nuclear activities and take other initial denuclearization steps if it wants to resume negotiations to resolve the standoff over its nuclear programs, a senior American diplomat said Monday.

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel made the remark during a seminar in Washington after Pyongyang's powerful National Defense Commission called earlier in the day for negotiations to find a fundamental solution to the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Russel said the U.S. is firmly committed to full implementation of the new U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile tests, but that does not mean that it's given up on dialogue.

"The United States and our partners have not given up on diplomacy. We'll keep trying to find the way forward," Russel said during a seminar organized by the Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS) held at the Rayburn House Office Building.

"Were North Korea to engage ..., the way forward isn't hard to visualize. It starts with the DPRK freezing all of its nuclear activities like Iran did ... and it starts with a credible declaration of its past activities and IAEA inspection of its nuclear site," Russel said.

Such steps are basic international obligations for the North, whose fulfillment could lead to resumption of the long-stalled six-party talks, where not only denuclearization, but also all of Pyongyang's concerns can be discussed, Russel said.

Earlier Monday, a spokesman at the North's powerful National Defense Commission (NDC) said that the international community should no longer pursue sanctions on the regime and should focus on negotiations to find a fundamental solution to the tensions.

It was believed to be the first time the North has mentioned negotiations since the January nuclear test.

The six-party nuclear talks aimed at resolving the North Korean standoff have been stalled since late 2008. North Korea demands the unconditional resumption of negotiations, while the U.S. says that Pyongyang must first take concrete steps demonstrating its denuclearization commitments.

While the talks idled, the North, which conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, conducted three more nuclear tests in 2009, 2013 and in January this year. Analysts have warned that it is only a matter of time until the North develops nuclear-tipped missiles capable of striking the U.S.

Russel reiterated that the U.S. and other countries won't accept Pyongyang as a nuclear weapons state, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's "byeongjin" policy of simultaneously pursuing nuclear and economic development won't succeed.

But at the same time, the U.S. is ready at any time to resume credible negotiations, he said.

"The goal of sanctions is not to destroy North Korea. It's to bring North Korea's leaders to their senses," he said. "The goal is to bring North Korea's leaders to the realization that at the end of the day, there is no viable alternative to authentic negotiations to the nuclear issue."

jschang@yna.co.kr
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