US Reiterates Stand On Talks With North Korea

The United States on Tuesday reiterated its long-standing position that it would engage in direct talks with North Korea only if the reclusive communist nation took "meaningful actions" to honor past commitments on its disputed nuclear and missile programs.

"The onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations," US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell stressed while addressing a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday.

"They've committed on numerous occasions to abandoning nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, including in the September 2005 joint statement. So we continue to hold the DPRK to those commitments and its international obligations," Ventrell said, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

When asked whether North Korea would return to the currently stalled six-nation talks on its disputed nuclear program without any preconditions, Ventrell replied: "The DPRK knows what's required of it and knows the seriousness of purpose they have to show."

China's Foreign Ministry said last Wednesday that North Korea had expressed willingness to rejoin the six-nation talks on its disputed nuclear program, which collapsed in 2008 after Pyongyang opted out of the negotiations.

The six-nation talks began in 2003, and were aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program through a negotiating process involving China, the United States, North and South Koreas, Japan and Russia.

North Korea had agreed at the six-nation talks in 2005 to roll back its nuclear program in exchange for aid, but pulled out of the negotiations after the UN Security Council (UNSC) condemned it for launching a rocket and imposed sanctions on several of its firms. Incidentally, UNSC resolutions prohibit North Korea from conducting any launches that use ballistic missile technology

The latest developments come amid tensions triggered by a North Korean nuclear test in February and subsequent threats by Pyongyang to launch nuclear strikes against the US and its allies in the region. The nuclear test had prompted the UNSC to impose fresh sanctions on North Korea.

Pyongyang responded by canceling the 1953 Armistice Agreement that ended the Korean War, withdrawing its workers from a jointly-run industrial zone with South Korea and unleashing a stream of threats against South Korea and the United States.

Nevertheless, Pyongyang softened its stand earlier this month and proposed talks with South Korea on issues contributing to the escalation of tensions. But the proposed talks were later suspended by the two nations over disagreement on the composition of their delegations.

Subsequently, North Korea proposed high-level talks with the US to defuse tensions and to discuss issues related to Pyongyang's disputed nuclear and missile programs. But the US response to the offer was cautious, with Washington insisting that such talks would be possible only if Pyongyang honors its past commitments.

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