Last Updated: Tue Jan 04, 2011 13:46 pm (KSA) 10:46 am (GMT)

US efforts in Seoul to reduce Korean tensions

US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Bosworth addresses reporters
US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Bosworth addresses reporters

The United States' assigned diplomat on North Korea arrived in Seoul Tuesday, calling for "serious negotiations" to ease tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear program and deadly attack on a South Korean island.

Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said he would closely coordinate with South Korea and China on how to deal with North Korea.

"We believe that serious negotiations must be at the heart of any strategy for dealing with North Korea and we look forward to being able to launch those at a reasonably early time," he told reporters at the airport.

Talks on limiting nuclear

 Tensions should be defused as early as possible and cooperation should be promoted proactively 
North Korean state media

China has proposed bringing together the envoys of long-stalled six-nation talks on limiting the nuclear-armed North to restrain tensions.

But Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have been lukewarm, saying Pyongyang first needs to show it is sincere about prohibiting nuclear weapons and restoring ties with Seoul.

"I will let the Chinese speak for themselves on that. I think, by and large, we've been working together with them very effectively. That's an important relationship for both countries," Bosworth said.

The ambassador is scheduled to meet his South Korean counterpart, Wiung-Lac, and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan Wednesday before flying to Beijing.

In November the North sparked security fears by disclosing a uranium enrichment plant to visiting US experts.

It insisted the plant is designed solely to fuel a light-water reactor being built to produce energy. But U.S. officials and experts say this could easily be converted to produce weapons-grade uranium.

The North shut down its elderly plutonium-producing reactor in 2007 under a six-nation deal. But it quit the forum in April 2009 and staged a nuclear test a month later, its second since 2006.

Bosworth's Asia tour, which also includes Tokyo, comes after Seoul reached out to Pyongyang with a signal to open talks after months of high tensions.

North Korea, in a joint New Year editorial by state media on Saturday, said tensions "should be defused as early as possible," stressing dialogue, and that cooperation "should be promoted proactively."

In an apparent response to the North's conciliatory gesture, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said Monday that Seoul was open to talks if Pyongyang showed its sincerity towards mending ties.

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