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US remains ready to engage with N. Korea, but holding N. Korea accountable important: State Dept.

State Department Press Secretary Ned Price is seen speaking during a daily press briefing at the department in Washington on Thrusday (White House)
State Department Press Secretary Ned Price is seen speaking during a daily press briefing at the department in Washington on Thrusday (White House)

WASHINGTON-- The United States remains ready to engage with North Korea diplomatically but the country continues to show no interest in dialogue, a state department spokesperson said Thursday.

State Department Press Secretary Ned Price also highlighted the importance of holding North Korea accountable for its recent provocations.

"We have made clear time and again to the DPRK that we are ready, willing and able to sit down with them to have discussions about practical steps we can take towards that ultimate goal, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he told a daily press briefing, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"But time and again, the DPRK has indicated to us and to the international community, oftentimes in no uncertain terms, that it has no desire at present to engage in that," added Price.

North Korea said Thursday (Korea time) that it is not interested in any contact or dialogue with the US as long as the US pursues a hostile policy toward the North.

"The escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula and in the region is entirely attributable to the hostile policy of the US, which forces the DPRK to disarm itself unilaterally by dint of sanctions and military pressure and pursues the military expansion of its allies," an unidentified spokesperson for the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

Price stressed the need to hold North Korea to account for its recent provocations.

"It's important, again, not for our own interests but for the purposes of regional peace and security, that countries around the world hold the DPRK to account and send a very clear signal to the North Korean regime that there will be costs and consequences for its continued provocations that threaten the United States, our treaty allies, but again, also the broader region," he said.

North Korea fired 69 ballistic missiles last year in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that prohibit North Korea from long-range missile testing. It also set a new annual record of ballistic missiles launched by the impoverished country, which previously was at 25.

Price urged China and Russia to fully implement UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea.

"Our message to countries around the world, especially to those permanent members of the UN Security Council that themselves have voted in favor of now various UN Security Council resolutions, is that all countries, but especially those countries that are signatories of UN Security Council resolutions, have a responsibility to fully comply with and to enforce the sanctions that are on the books," he said.

In 2022 alone, China and Russia, both veto power-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, dashed 10 Security Council meetings to impose additional sanctions on North Korea.

Price said the North Korea issue will certainly be on the agenda when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to China next week for talks with his Chinese counterpart.

"In every significant senior level engagement we have with the PRC, the DPRK is a topic of discussion because the DPRK's nuclear weapons program and ballistic missile program is not only a threat to the United States, it's not only a threat to our allies in the region, but it poses a threat to regional peace and security," he said. "It is something that also implicates the PRC."

PRC stands for the People's Republic of China. (Yonhap)