April 14, 2013

As US talks up diplomacy, NKorea takes hard line

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

But North Korea on Sunday served a reminder of the difficult task ahead. Its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said the government had no intention of talking with Seoul unless the South abandons its confrontational posture, as the North called it.

Seoul had pressed North Korea to discuss restarting operations at a joint factory park on the border and President Park Geun-hye has stressed peace opportunities after taking power from her more hard-line predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. The presidency expressed regret with North Korea's rebuttal Sunday.

At a news conference in Tokyo, Kerry stressed that gaining China's commitment to a denuclearized North Korea was no small matter given its historically strong military and economic ties to North Korea.

But he refused to say what the Chinese were offering to do concretely to pressure the North into abiding by some of the conditions it agreed to in a 2005 deal that required it to abandon its nuclear program.

"They have to take some actions," Kerry said of North Korea. "How many or how much? I'd have to talk to folks back in Washington about that. But if the Chinese came to us and said, 'Look, here's what we have cooking,' I'm not going to tell you I'm shutting the door today to something that's logical and might have a chance of success."

In remarks to U.S. journalists, Kerry said that under the right circumstances, he even would consider making a grand overture to North Korea's leader, such as an offer of direct talks with the U.S.

"We're prepared to reach out," he said. Diplomacy, he added, required risk-taking and secrecy such as when President Richard Nixon engaged China in the 1970s or U.S. back-channel talks were able to end the Cuban missile crisis a decade earlier.

Given their proximity and decades of hostility and distrust, Japan and South Korea have the most to fear from the North's unpredictable actions.

Kerry clarified a statement he made Saturday in Beijing, when he told reporters the U.S. could scale back its missile-defense posture in the region if North Korea goes nuclear-free.

It appeared to be a sweetener to coax tougher action from a Chinese government which has eyed the increased U.S. military presence in its backyard warily, but which has done little over the years to snuff out funding and support for North Korea's weapons of mass destruction program.

Kerry said America's basic force posture wasn't up to debate. "There is no discussion that I know of to change that," he said.

But he said it was logical that additional missile-defense elements, deployed specifically in response to the Korean threat, could be reversed if that threat no longer existed.

"I was simply making an observation about the rationale for that particular deployment, which is to protect the United States' interests that are directly threatened by North Korea," he said.

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