(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks by O'Brien in last 7 paras)
By Lee Haye-ah
WASHINGTON, June 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien on Tuesday called on North Korea to refrain from provocations and return to dialogue.
O'Brien's comment comes after North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in anger over anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets sent by defectors but then suspended plans to take military action against South Korea.
He said the United States wants to see North Korea achieve a "bright economic future" under leader Kim Jong-un, and that President Donald Trump remains committed to "enduring peace" on the Korean Peninsula.
"Tangible progress has been slow," O'Brien said during a virtual seminar hosted by the Center for the National Interest, apparently referring to the denuclearization negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.
"But the door to dialogue and progress remains open," he said.
Trump and Kim have met three times since June 2018 to try to reach a deal on dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. concessions.
At the first summit in Singapore, the leaders agreed to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, better bilateral relations and a lasting peace regime.
Implementation of the deal has stalled amid differences over the scope of North Korea's denuclearization and sanctions relief from the U.S.
"We are committed to engagement, and to achieving the goals set forth at the Singapore summit," O'Brien said.
"We continue to call on North Korea to avoid provocations, abide by obligations under U.N. Security Council resolutions and return to sustained and substantive negotiations," he said, referring to U.N. bans on North Korea's testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology.
Washington has consistently called for a return to dialogue while emphasizing that it remains militarily ready to respond to any North Korean provocation.
On Monday, Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, the lead U.S. negotiator on North Korea's nuclear program, said there is still time for the two sides to make "substantial progress" in the direction both sides want to go in.
But on the possibility of another summit between Trump and Kim, he said it's "probably unlikely" before the November presidential election in the U.S., citing COVID-19 as a reason.
Last Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, during which the U.S. fought with South Korea against a North Korean invasion backed by China and the Soviet Union.
O'Brien said the South Korea-U.S. alliance remains as strong as ever as the "linchpin of peace and security" for the Korean Peninsula and the entire Indo-Pacific region.
Without mentioning China, he also said Seoul and Washington are working to ensure an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, where sovereignty is respected, conflicts are resolved peacefully and individuals are able to prosper and flourish.
O'Brien described the two countries' forces on the peninsula as "the most combined, interoperable and dynamic militaries" in the world.
He acknowledged periodic difficulties in the two countries' economic and defense relationships, stopping short of discussing the ongoing negotiations over a new defense cost-sharing deal.
"But they'll be resolved," he said, "and we'll get through them and emerge stronger as a result."
O'Brien also gave a nod to the two countries' growing cultural ties: "Korean boy band BTS' new album hit number one in the U.S. on the Billboard 200 chart. 'Parasite' made history last year when it became the first foreign language film to win a Best Picture Oscar, and South Korean barbecue and culinary staples from kimchi to bibimbap have become ubiquitous on the American culinary scene."
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