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‘U.S. to keep deterrence against N.K.’

Sung Kim, Washington’s newly appointed ambassador to Seoul, said the U.S. will maintain a strong deterrence against Pyongyang, regardless of predictions that North Korea might ratchet up military provocations next year.

His comments came as North Korea plans to declare 2012 as the year of becoming a “power state,” fanning concerns that it might attempt additional provocations while major regional powers have leadership elections.

“It’s very difficult to predict. What we should be doing, regardless of predictions, is continuing to maintain a very strong deterrence,” Kim said in an interview with the Korean press in Seoul.

A robust alliance between the U.S. and South Korea and close policy coordination will be important in doing so, he said.

He was sworn in in November in Washington, becoming the first U.S. ambassador to Seoul of Korean heritage since the two sides established diplomatic ties 129 years ago.

Kim has served as Washington’s special envoy to the six-party nuclear talks aimed at North Korea’s denuclearization since 2008.

The six-nation talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have been stalled for more than two years, as regional concerns continue over Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear ambitions.

On how to resume the stalled multilateral talks, he said there is no “magic answer” and it is up to North Korea.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what I and my government could have done differently in past four, five years,” he said.

“The conclusion is that it’s really the North Koreans, it’s not what we do, or what ROK does. It’s what the North Koreans are willing to do.”

The 51-year-old diplomat, born in South Korea, emigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s after his father retired from his post in the government and obtained U.S. citizenship in 1980.

Kim said he would like to meet with Lee Hui-ho, wife of the late former President Kim Dae-jung.

Ambassador Kim’s father was reportedly involved in the abduction of the former president during the Park Chung-hee administration while serving as a minister to Japan in the 1970s. However, the late Kim reportedly told his aides not to raise the issue again during his presidency.

“Former President Kim Dae-jung is a very prominent figure in Korean history. So I hope at some point I would have an opportunity to meet with Ms. Lee,” he said.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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