Kerry tells N Korea to get real

February 14, 2014 - 6:59:53 am
SEOUL: US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday welcomed new high-level talks between North and South Korea, while warning Pyongyang against trying to derail an upcoming South Korea-US military exercise.

Kerry, in Seoul to discuss North Korea’s nuclear programme at the start of an Asia tour, stressed that the US would never accept the North as a nuclear state and would not be drawn into “talks for talks’ sake” with Pyongyang.

“We’ve been through that exercise, we want to know that it’s real,” he said, adding North Korea had to take “meaningful action” towards denuclearisation before a dialogue could begin.

He voiced support for South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s efforts to build trust with the North, and welcomed a recent diplomatic initiative that saw the Koreas meet on Wednesday for highest-level talks in seven years.

A second round of discussions is scheduled today, with North Korea pushing the South to postpone its annual military drills with the US until after a planned reunion from February 20-25 of family members separated by the Korean War.

The drills are slated to begin on February 24 and Seoul is refusing to consider a postponement, a stance Kerry made clear had Washington’s backing.

Kerry said the reunion was a humanitarian issue and there was “no legitimate excuse” for linking it to annual military exercises.

North Korea should act out of “human decency” and not try and use “one (issue) as an excuse to condition the other”, he added.

Last year’s joint exercises fuelled an unusually sharp and protracted surge in military tensions, with Pyongyang threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike, and nuclear-capable US stealth bombers making dummy runs over the Korean peninsula. AFP