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N. Korea's denuclearization remains top priority: U.S. official

North Korea's denuclearization remains a top priority for the United States despite Pyongyang's unwillingness to give up its nuclear weapons program, a senior U.S.official said Monday.

   "Denuclearization remains our top priority," Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. under secretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters in a conference call from Tokyo. "We remain in close contact with other five party partners on our shared goal of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and we want to see it pursued in a peaceful manner."

   Denuclearization talks involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. have been suspended since late 2008 due to Pyongyang's backtracking on its past agreement to abandon its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and political concessions.

   Washington has urged Pyongyang to demonstrate its sincerity about denuclearization before returning to the six-party talks.

   "While we remain open to dialogue with North Korea, our policy has not changed and we're going to judge North Korea by its actions, not its words," Gottemoeller said.

   The U.S.-led nuclear deal with Iran demonstrated Washington's willingness to engage with countries with whom it has had longstanding differences, but the situation with North Korea is very different as Pyongyang has not made the decision to end its international isolation to the detriment of the North Korean people, she noted.

   "I will emphasize ... our view is that enhanced pressure remains essential to compel North Korea to change course,"

Gottemoeller added. "So we've been calling on all states participating in the six party talks and regionally to implement the U.N. Security Council resolution concerning North Korea fully and exercise robust vigilance against North Korea's proliferation activities."

   Asked about possible requests U.S. President Barack Obama might make to Chinese President Xi Jinping during the latter's visit to Washington next month, the under secretary did not give a direct answer.

   "I'm sure there will be many opportunities for the president and for Xi Jinping to discuss issues of mutual concern, and especially issues on the regional security front where we want to see, of course, the regional security situation stable and secure for all countries in the region," she said.

   China, as host of the six-party talks and North Korea's largest ally and benefactor, has been pressed by Washington and Seoul to exercise greater leverage over Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear weapons program. (Yonhap)