Senior US diplomat says ‘no preconditions’ for North Korea talks

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US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman appealed to North Korea for negotiations “without preconditions” on Tuesday while condemning the country’s most recent missile test.

“We have reached out directly to Pyongyang and stand ready to meet without preconditions, and as we have said publicly on multiple occasions, the United States does not harbour hostile intentions toward the DPRK,” Sherman said in a virtual address to the New York-based Korea Society’s annual gala, using the formal acronym for the country.

“The United States absolutely condemns the DPRK’s recent ballistic missile launches, which violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions, threaten the security of the DPRK’s neighbours and the international community and undermines global non-proliferation efforts,” she added.

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“We are working closely with our allies and partners, and especially for the Republic of Korea and Japan, to monitor the situation in the DPRK, and charter a path for complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”

Sherman’s remarks followed two days of discussions in Washington concerning the nuclear stand-off with North Korea involving the US special representative for North Korea Sung Kim; Noh Kyu-duk, South Korea’s special representative for Korean peninsula peace and security affairs; and Funakoshi Takehiro, director general for the Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau at Japan’s foreign ministry.

The three officials “reaffirmed their commitment to working trilaterally to reduce tensions and make progress toward the shared goal of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, the US State Department said on Tuesday.

Intelligence chiefs from the US, South Korea and Japan reportedly met in Seoul on Tuesday as well.

South Korea and Japan were Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s first destinations after being confirmed in his post this year, underscoring President Joe Biden’s emphasis on finding a way to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula.

On that trip, which signalled Biden’s strategy of shoring up relations with two US allies in northeastern Asia to counter China, Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met jointly with their respective counterparts in both countries.

Blinken said in Seoul that China, North Korea’s largest trading partner and diplomatic backer, had a “critical role” to play in denuclearisation efforts.

However, Pyongyang has since pressed ahead with weapons testing in the face of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at an exhibition of weapons systems in Pyongyang on October 11. Photo: AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at an exhibition of weapons systems in Pyongyang on October 11. Photo: AP

Earlier on Tuesday, South Korea’s military reported that North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile from off its east coast.

That action overshadowed the opening of a major South Korean defence expo in which Seoul showed off its next-generation fighter jet, drones and other technology.

Addressing the launch, the State Department said that during the meeting on Tuesday “Special Representative Kim emphasised US condemnation of the DPRK’s October 19 ballistic missile launch, which violates multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and called on the DPRK to refrain from further provocations and engage in sustained and substantive dialogue”.

Kim “further reiterated Washington’s ironclad commitment” to South Korea and Japan, it said.

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