Diplomacy possible with North Korea: US defence secretary

Friday, January 14, 2011

SEOUL - Diplomatic involvement with North Korea is “possible” but it must first end “dangerous provocations” and meet its international obligations, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Friday during a visit to South Korea.

Gates was in Seoul at a time of high tension on the Korean Peninsula for talks with Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin on North Korea, the Yonhap News Agency reported.

“With regard to next steps on North Korea, diplomatic engagement is possible, starting with direct engagement between DPRK and the South,” Gates told Kim, using the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“When or if North Korea’s action shows a cause to believe that negotiations can be productive and conducted in good faith, then we could see a return to the six-party talks,” Gates said.

The six-party talks comprise the Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the US. They have been on ice since North Korea walked out in 2009 over the imposition of UN sanctions.

“DPRK leadership must stop these dangerous provocations and take concrete steps to show they will begin meeting their international obligations,” Gates said.

Tensions been high on the Korean Peninsula since the North staged an artillery attack on a South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in November, killing four people.

That attack followed the March sinking of a South Korean warship that left 46 sailors dead. Seoul blamed Pyongyang for the torpedo attack, an accusation it has vehemently denied.

Kim said the talks would underline the strong alliance between South Korea and the US.

“I believe that strong force is the only measure to effectively cope with threats posed by North Korea,” Kim said.

“To that end, I think a stronger Republic of Korea-US alliance is important,” Kim said, using South Korea’s official name.

Gates’s visit to Seoul followed trips earlier in the week to China and Japan where North Korea was also high on the agenda.

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