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North Korea

US vows to keep up pressure as North Korea and South Korea hold first talks in two years

US State Department adviser says that pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme has helped revive formal contact with Seoul

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 11:41am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 3:23pm

The United States will keep up pressure on North Korea, a senior adviser on Washington’s Asia policy said on Tuesday, as representatives from the two Koreas held high-level talks.

North and South Korea were holding their first formal talks in two years on their border focusing on whether the North can attend next month’s Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang.

Senior South Korean officials left Seoul early on Tuesday for the meeting in the demilitarised zone that divides the two countries.

The Chinese foreign ministry said earlier that Beijing welcomed the talks and called for the dialogue to help resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula.

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Brian Hook, a senior adviser to the US Secretary of State on Asia Policy, said on Tuesday it was premature to judge whether the talks would be the “beginning of something”.

“We expect it is mostly going to be focused around the Olympics …[the talks] could be meaningful, it could be important about the Olympics, it could also be just about the Olympics but nothing else happens,” Hook said.

The discussions are the first since 2015 after Seoul halted economic cooperation with Pyongyang, aiming to contain its rapidly developing nuclear weapons programme.

A hotline between the two nations was reconnected last week, with North Korea expressing an interest in taking part in the Winter Olympic Games to be held in South Korea.

Hook said: “The [US] president believes that if we didn’t have the pressure campaign they wouldn’t be talking at all right now.

“It is our policy that the pressure campaign will continue in some form or another until we achieve our policy goals.”

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Hook said these included the “complete, verifiable, irreversible” denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Hook said at least US$2.7 billion of North Korean exports had been blocked after the latest rounds of United Nations sanctions implemented against the hermit kingdom.