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SKorea, US agree to step up cooperation in six-party nuclear talks

SKorea, US agree to step up cooperation in six-party nuclear talks

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed Monday to strengthen cooperation to denuclearize North Korea, officials said.
Lee, who took office Monday, met with Rice after his inauguration and discussed the two countries' stance on North Korea, their shared interest in developing closer bilateral relations and a pending free trade deal between Seoul and Washington.
"I will make the denuclearization (of the Korean peninsula) a top principle," Lee told Rice, according to presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan.
The spokesman quoted Rice as saying that South Korea and the U.S. can achieve "a common goal" within the framework of the six-party talks, referring to multilateral negotiations with China, Japan and Russia to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Washington's chief nuclear envoy in those talks, quoted Lee as saying he would do all he could to strengthen cooperation with the United States.
Lee said a stronger Seoul-Washington relationship in the six-party process "does not mean increased tensions on the Korean peninsula," Hill told reporters. "On the contrary it means a good inter-Korean relationship."
In a separate meeting, Yu Myung-hwan, South Korea's foreign minister designate, told Rice that South Korea agrees with the U.S. on wanting North Korea to make a full and complete declaration of its nuclear programs, according to Hill.
"We welcome this," Hill said.
The disarmament process, which has made major progress in the past year, has been in a deadlock recently over whether the North has fulfilled its commitment to fully account for its nuclear programs as it committed to do in the six-party talks.
The North said it had already provided the U.S. with the declaration, but Washington says Pyongyang has not yet given a complete accounting.
Lee also expressed his commitment to bolster "trust" in the half-century old South Korea-U.S. alliance that showed signs of fraying over a decade of liberal rule in South Korea due mainly to differences over how to deal with the North, according to his spokesman.
Seoul has preferred a softer approach while Washington has opted for a tougher line.
"Good relations between South Korea and the U.S. are natural but there were some insufficient points," Lee told Rice, according to the spokesman.
Lee plans to visit the U.S. in April and stop in Japan on his way back from Washington, the spokesman said.
Rice and Lee also discussed a free trade agreement signed last year that is pending approval by lawmakers in both countries.
Lee asked the U.S. to exercise leadership to get the deal approved by the U.S. Congress, while Rice said the agreement would help strengthen bilateral relations.
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Associated Press Writer Matthew Lee in Seoul contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-23 23:35 GMT+08:00