(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more details, remarks; CHANGES headline; ADDS photo, byline)
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, June 3 (Yonhap) -- A senior U.S. government official voiced grave concern Friday about the ongoing virus crisis in North Korea and reaffirmed Washington's support for relevant humanitarian assistance and the unrelenting push for denuclearization.
"We see this humanitarian crisis as separate from making progress on the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and we do not and will not link the two," Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said, speaking via video links at a forum here on the Seoul-Washington relations and the North Korea issue.
The veteran diplomat stressed that Washington's goal remains the "complete denuclearization" of the peninsula while it keeps believing in the possibility of a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the problem, as it harbors "no hostile intent" toward Pyongyang.
In apparent overtures made again in public, she added the U.S. continues to support the provision of COVID-19 vaccines for North Koreans and shipment of other necessary aid packages.
Sherman urged the North to refrain from further destabilizing activities and take the path of serious and sustained diplomacy.
On the Seoul-Washington alliance, she said the two sides remain "in full alignment" on their approach.
The forum was held offline and online with the title of "Celebrating Korea-US Relations: 140 Years and Beyond," bringing together senior government officials, politicians and security experts. It was co-hosted by the U.S. Embassy here and the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a think tank based in Seoul.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin and Christopher Del Corso, charge d'affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy, delivered their speeches during an opening ceremony. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger emphasized the bilateral alliance in a congratulatory video message.
Sung Kim, the Joe Biden administration's point man on Pyongyang who is in Seoul for talks with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts, will join an afternoon session on the Korean Peninsula and North Korea.
Wendy Cutler, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and a former negotiator of a South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, is to attend panel discussions on economic security and the role of the private sector.
Korea's Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and the United States established diplomatic relations under the 1882 Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, and the first U.S. diplomatic envoy arrived in Korea in 1883.
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