South Korea’s Foreign Minister pressed North Korea to take real steps toward nuclear disarmament and immediately rejoin stalled nuclear talks, expressing doubt on Monday over the regime’s latest conciliatory gestures.
After months of tension on its nuclear and missile programmes, the North is reaching out to Seoul and Washington by releasing detainees and offering direct talks with the U.S. The country, however, sent mixed signals to the outside world last week by conducting missile tests and threatening a war.
“In spite of these gestures, however, there is no real ground as yet to view the North’s softening stance as an indication of fundamental change in its position on the nuclear issue,” Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told a Seoul forum.
Mr. Yu said that a barrage of short-range missile tests from North Korea last week and an announcement last month that the regime is enriching uranium contradict recent goodwill gestures. Uranium enrichment would provide North Korea with a second way to make nuclear bombs.
Mr. Yu said North Korea must first take “substantial” disarmament measures and return to stalled six-party disarmament talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
He said South Korea remains open to dialogue with the North but will continue to enforce sanctions on the country for its May nuclear test to get the North to return to the talks.
North Korea has offered to resume key joint projects with South Korea and has proposed direct talks with the U.S., but neither initiative has yet been accepted. Washington and Seoul have also shown no signs of easing pressure on North Korea to disarm through the U.N. sanctions.
A senior North Korean nuclear negotiator plans to visit the United States to attend a private security forum this month. The State Department approved a rare visa for Ri Gun the director general of American affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry Kim Myong Gil, a minister at North Korea’s United Nations mission in New York, told The Associated Press on Friday.
A U.S. official said Mr. Ri, the director general of American affairs at North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, would likely discuss nuclear matters with a senior U.S. diplomat while he was in the United States. The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues.