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White House urges N. Korea to 'come out of wilderness'

The White House on Friday urged North Korea to "come out of the wilderness" by giving up nuclear ambitions as Pyongyang's leader, Kim Jong-un, hailed the country's nuclear and missile tests during a rare congress of the Workers' Party.

Kim's address at the first party congress in 36 years showed that despite international pressure, he is determined to forge ahead with nuclear and missile programs under his trademark "byeongjin" policy of simultaneously pursuing economic and nuclear development.

 "We obviously are aware of the risk that is posed by North Korea's effort to develop nuclear weapons and systems capable of delivering those nuclear weapons," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a regular briefing, adding that the U.S. has worked with other countries to counter those efforts. 

 "As a result, North Korea has faced increasing isolation," he said.

The North's pursuit of weapons programs has also undermined its already-weak economy as international efforts have targeted economic elements that benefit the weapons programs, Earnest said. 

 "Those are not just concerns the United States has raised.

Those are concerns that have also been raised by countries like China and Russia and South Korea and Japan. And the international community is serious about holding North Korea to account for their destabilizing and provocative behavior," he said.

"There is a path that North Korea can take to come out of the wilderness, to emerge from isolation. But it will require them renouncing nuclear weapons and demonstrating a clear commitment to ending their provocative actions and denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula," he said.

The State Department also urged the North to honor its denuclearization commitments.
   "We are closely following the proceedings, but aren't going to speculate about potential outcomes," State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams said of the North's congress. 

"We continue to call on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations," she said. (Yonhap)

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