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S. Korea, U.S., Japan call on N. Korea to take actions to renounce nuclear program

BALI, Indonesia, July 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea, the United States and Japan urged North Korea on Saturday to take actions to dismantle its nuclear program before the resumption of stalled multinational talks can take place.

In a joint statement after a trilateral meeting on the sidelines of a key ASEAN forum, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto also hailed rare talks between the two Koreas that took place in Bali a day earlier.

The three foreign ministers "welcomed the inter-Korean dialogue on denuclearization held in Bali" on Friday and "emphasized that the inter-Korean dialogue should be a sustained process going forward," the joint statement said.

"They also agreed to continue efforts to dissuade North Korea from taking provocative actions, and to encourage the DPRK (NorthKorea) to take concrete steps to demonstrate a genuine commitment to denuclearization," the statement said.

Earlier on Saturday, Clinton said she was "encouraged" by the surprise talks in Bali between South Korean chief nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-lac and his newly appointed North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho.

Wi and Ri said they agreed to make joint efforts to resume the stalled six-party denuclearization talks "as soon as possible." The talks have been stalled since December 2008.

In an apparent effort to maintain the fresh momentum of dialogue, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim held a brief meeting on Saturday with his North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui-chun.

Both meetings between the two Koreas raised hopes for the resumption of the six-party negotiations, which also involve the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

The multilateral process has been stalled since December 2008 due to the North's boycott and tensions over Pyongyang's deadly attacks on Seoul last year.

After sharply raising tensions, North Korea has called for the unconditional resumption of the negotiations, but Seoul and Washington have demanded that Pyongyang, which has a track record of abusing the negotiations to extract concessions, first prove that it is serious about giving up its nuclear program.

The nuclear standoff gained urgency after Pyongyang revealed last year that it has a uranium enrichment facility. Uranium, if highly enriched, could become weapons grade, providing the provocative regime with a second way of building atomic bombs after plutonium.

In the joint statement, the three foreign ministers said, "North Korea's uranium enrichment program must also be addressed in order to allow for the resumption of the six-party talks."

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