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Envoy: SKorea's Park open to dialogue with NKorea
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-01-25 02:13 PM
South Korea's new president will not tolerate North Korean provocations but will continue to push for dialogue with Pyongyang, a special envoy to President-elect Park Geun-hye said just hours after the North's top governing body declared it would continue atomic tests and rocket launches.

Park is strongly urging North Korea to refrain from conducting a nuclear test that could only worsen the tensions on the Korean Peninsula in the wake of a provocative long-range rocket launch in December, envoy Rhee In-je told The Associated Press and selected news outlets in Davos, Switzerland.

"President-elect Park makes it clear that North Korea's nuclear ambitions and further provocations against the South will not be tolerated," Rhee said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Thursday. "In particular, she strongly urges North Korea to refrain from further worsening the situation by conducting a third nuclear test."

But Park, who takes office next month, wants to leave the window open to constructive dialogue with Pyongyang and will continue to provide food and medical aid as part of a "trust-building" policy for the two Koreas. "It is a gradual process based on mutual trust and respect, which can begin with keeping promises," he said.

She also advocates returning to the six-nation disarmament negotiations, Rhee said. North Korea walked away from those talks in 2009 and has said future disarmament talks are out off the table.

On Tuesday, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to condemn North Korea's Dec. 12 rocket launch as a violation of a ban against missile activity. The council, including Pyongyang ally China, expanded sanctions against the regime.

North Korea's National Defense Commission responded Thursday by declaring that the regime is prepared to conduct a nuclear test in defiance of U.N. punishment, and it made clear that its long-range rockets are designed to carry not only satellites but also warheads aimed at striking the United States.

The commission, North Korea's top governing body led by leader Kim Jong Un, pledged to keep launching satellites and rockets and to conduct a nuclear test as part of a "new phase" of combat with the United States, which it blames for leading the U.N. bid to punish Pyongyang. It said a nuclear test was part of "upcoming" action but did not say exactly when or where it would take place.

"We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people," the commission said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he has seen no outward sign that North Korea will follow through soon on its plan to conduct a test. But that doesn't mean preparations aren't taking place.

"They have the capability, frankly, to conduct these tests in a way that make it very difficult to determine whether or not they are doing it," Panetta told reporters in Washington.

North Korea claims the right to build nuclear weapons as a defense against the United States, its Korean War foe.

Their bitter three-year war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953, and left the Korean Peninsula divided by the world's most heavily fortified demilitarized zone. The U.S. leads the U.N. Command that governs the truce and stations more than 28,000 troops in ally South Korea, a presence that North Korea cites as a key reason for its drive to build nuclear weapons.

North Korea is estimated to have stored up enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight bombs, according to scientist Siegfried Hecker, who visited the North's Nyongbyon nuclear complex in 2010.

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