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(2nd LD) U.S. remains committed to engaging with N. Korea: State Dept.

All News 03:41 June 23, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional information in last 4 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Yonhap) -- The United States remains committed to engaging with North Korea, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday, despite a negative statement from the sister of the North Korean leader that the U.S. may be in for a great disappointment.

Ned Price also reiterated U.S. hopes that North Korea would respond positively.

"We remain prepared to engage in principled negotiations with the DPRK to deal with the challenge of its nuclear program," the spokesman said in a telephonic press briefing, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The remarks come after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister, Yo-jong, said the U.S. hopes for dialogue with the North will lead to a "greater disappointment."

"When it comes to the comments you mentioned emanating from North Korea, we have seen them. We are aware of them," Price said when asked about the statement from Kim Yo-jong. "They have not changed our view on diplomacy."

The Joe Biden administration had sought to engage with North Korea in February, then again when its North Korea policy review came to an end in April, but the North reportedly remained unresponsive.

The North's statement also came after Sung Kim, U.S. special envoy for North Korea, offered to meet with the North "anywhere, anytime without preconditions" while meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts in Seoul this week.

"We continue to hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach and we will have to wait and see if these comments are followed up with any more direct communication about a potential path forward," said Price.

North Korea has stayed away from denuclearization negotiations since leader Kim's Hanoi summit with former U.S. President Donald Trump ended without a deal in February 2019.

In another conciliatory gesture toward Pyongyang, Sung Kim and his South Korean counterpart agreed on Monday (Seoul time) to consider terminating their countries' bilateral working group on North Korea, which the North has often called a hindrance to inter-Korean dialogue.

Price said the proposed termination of the South Korea-U.S. working group does not mean an end to their cooperation or coordination of policy toward North Korea.

"We will continue this engagement. It is most certainly not ending, far from it, and we will continue it through a variety of diplomatic mechanisms at all levels of our governments," said the department spokesman.

"We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen our cooperation as we work toward what is the end goal of the policy that we have put forward, and that is the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he added.


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