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US envoy urges NK to cease ‘unlawful’ activities, engage in dialogue

South Korean citizens watch a TV news report on North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile at Seoul Station in central Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
South Korean citizens watch a TV news report on North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile at Seoul Station in central Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

The US envoy for North Korea urged Pyongyang to cease its “unlawful and destabilizing” activities and engage in dialogue in his talks with South Korean and Japanese counterparts on Monday after the North’s latest missile test.

US Special Representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, South Korea’s Noh Kyu-duk and Japan’s Takehiro Funakoshi held three-way phone talks immediately after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles –- the latest in a flurry of weapons tests despite a United Nations ban.

On Tuesday, the North confirmed it test-fired a tactical guided missile a day earlier to verify the accuracy of the weapons system under production, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

“Special Representative Kim expressed concern about the DPRK’s missile launches, which violated multiple UN Security Council resolutions and were the latest in a series of ballistic missile launches by the DPRK this month,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“(Kim) called on the DPRK to cease its unlawful and destabilizing activities and instead engage in dialogue, underscoring the United States’ continued openness to meeting the DPRK without preconditions.”

The South Korean Foreign Ministry also released a statement on the three-way talks, saying the officials agreed to maintain close trilateral cooperation for the stable management of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and resumption of dialogue with the North at an early date.

The three countries have been stepping up cooperation in dealing with Pyongyang’s weapons program, with Kim holding talks separately with Noh and Funakoshi following the Jan. 5 launch, and trilateral talks after the Jan. 11 test.

The latest test marked the regime’s fourth missile launch this year, following two purported hypersonic missile tests on Jan. 5 and Jan. 11 and last Friday’s short-range ballistic missile that the Pyongyang claimed was launched from a train.

The series of missile launches drew condemnation from the US and other countries, with the US slapping its first sanctions over North Korea’s weapons program last week. In response, the North had warned of “stronger and certain reaction” toward Washington for imposing new sanctions against the regime.

Washington is also pushing for stronger UN sanctions on North Korea, as part of a wider effort to put pressure on Pyongyang.

The UN on Monday said the North’s repeated weapons test is “increasingly concerning” and urged for dialogue among the related countries. 

“There haven’t been that many periods, I think, in recent time where we have seen so many launches from the DPRK,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told a regular press briefing. “And for us, it is just another reminder of the need for the DPRK and all the parties engaged to involve themselves, engage themselves in diplomatic talks so we can get what the United Nations would like to see, which is a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and, in the more immediate term, a lowering of tensions.”

Asked whether UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should reach out to Pyongyang for dialogue, the spokesperson said the existing mechanisms are being used.

“I think there are existing mechanisms and existing lines of communications. And I think, at this point, these should be used, and the secretary-general is very supportive of those diplomatic frameworks that already exist. But they need to be used,” said Dujarric.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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