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North Korea: U.S. has pushed peninsula ‘to the brink of war’

03770712-7522By Karen DeYoung

North Korea is willing to hold direct talks with the United States, but only “if the United States sincerely seeks to end the vicious cycle of tensions and hostility” and has no preconditions, its foreign minister said here Tuesday.

“The United States is responsible for pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of war,” Foreign Minister Pak Eui-chun said in a speech to Asian foreign ministers. “For Washington to accuse us of provocations is nonsense.”

After a meeting here Monday with his Chinese counterpart, Secretary of State John F. Kerry praised China for what he called “very firm statements and very firm steps” insisting that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program. At the same time, he said China could have done more to help the United States in apprehending fugitive leaker Edward Snowden.

Kerry arrived here Monday for two days of talks with his counterparts across Asia, part of the Obama administration’s efforts to bolster its standing and influence on this continent.

With China, “we have a lot of issues that we’re dealing with right now. Issues of major maritime security . . . [and] major, major issues with respect to North Korea, [where] China is cooperating with us,” Kerry said at a news conference. “Life and international relationships are often complicated by the fact that you have many things you have to work on simultaneously.”

After his meeting with Kerry, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that his government had urged North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program and called for early resumption of six-party talks, which include the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia.

A senior State Department official said that China’s public backing for denuclearization of North Korea, as well as its “violent agreement” on the subject with Kerry in private, were major steps forward. The official spoke on condition of anonymity about the closed-door meeting.

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