By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- The United States continues to seek complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and believes diplomacy is the best way to achieve such a goal, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday.
He, however, also highlighted the importance of fully implementing U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sanctions to prevent the North from further advancing its missile capabilities.
"Obviously, we don't want to see the North Korean military program continue to be able to pose a threat to our South Korean allies or to the region. So we continue to call on Kim Jong-un to sit down and discuss the way forward," Kirby said in a press briefing, referring to the North Korean leader.
"So our view hasn't changed. We want to see the complete, verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula. We believe that diplomacy is the best track to take to get there and we're willing to sit down (with) no preconditions," he added.
North Korea on Thursday (Seoul time) hinted at resuming its nuclear and long-range missile testing, saying it will consider restarting "all temporarily-suspended activities."
Pyongyang has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests since November 2017.
North Korea's statement followed its four short-range missile launches since the start of this year.
Kirby noted the North continues and will continue to test missiles, "So they can learn. So they can improve."
"Without getting into specific intelligence assessments, we have every expectation they do continue to improve their capabilities, both in terms of potential range and in precision," he said. "And obviously, we're taking that threat very, very seriously."
Washington, together with seven other members of the UNSC including Britain, Japan and France, earlier sought to push for additional U.N. sanctions against North Korea for its latest missile tests.
The move has been blocked by China and Russia, both close neighbors of North Korea and veto power-wielding permanent members of the UNSC.
"These ballistic missile launches are violations of Security Council resolutions. We continue to call on Pyongyang to cease that activity and for everybody involved in the international community to actually live up to the sanctions that have already been put in place," said Kirby, adding not every country was doing so.
"China has influence over Pyongyang. We know that and we certainly hope that they'll use that influence to the betterment not only of them and the region but to the whole world," he added.
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