US envoy calls for patience on North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea – A top U.S. envoy called Saturday for patience in getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs, a day after Washington warned of aggressive sanctions unless the North returns to stalled disarmament talks.

North Korea withdrew from the six-nation talks in April to protest a U.N. statement condemning a rocket launch. North Korea insisted it sent a satellite into orbit, while the U.S. and its allies said it was actually a long-range missile test.

North Korea's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam, said this past week that his country is not ready to resume the talks — which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia — because the U.S. and its allies do not respect its sovereignty.

North Korea conducted its second nuclear test in May and a barrage of missile tests in July, drawing harsh international condemnation and new U.N. sanctions.

Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, said there have to be "consequences" for North Korea's provocations, but also offered to hold talks with the North within the six-nation process if it returns to the negotiating table and takes irreversible steps to disable its nuclear program.

"At this juncture, the most important quality that the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia can demonstrate is patience," he told reporters in Seoul on Saturday after meeting with his South Korean counterpart.

He said the path North Korea has taken is unsustainable and it is likely to ultimately choose to re-engage with other nations.

Campbell is to meet with South Korea's foreign minister and its top nuclear envoy on Monday.

His trip comes as the U.S. is moving to enforce U.N. as well as its own sanctions against North Korea for its May 25 nuclear test.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley urged North Korea on Friday to return to the nuclear talks and begin taking irreversible steps toward denuclearization.

He also warned that the U.S. will continue pressuring North Korea into giving up its nuclear programs, saying Washington is "aggressively implementing" the U.N. sanctions.

Kim, the North's No. 2 leader, said his country was compelled to develop nuclear weapons in response to a U.S. nuclear threat but that it is opposed to nuclear war, a nuclear arms race and nuclear proliferation.

North Korea's "nuclear weapon is not for invading or threatening others but is war deterrence for defending the peace and security on the Korean peninsula," he said in a speech Wednesday at the Nonaligned Summit in Egypt, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday.

Before visiting Seoul, Campbell met with Japanese officials in Tokyo and agreed to increase efforts to encourage North Korea to return to the disarmament talks.

They also agreed to strengthen the U.S. defense of Japan against any nuclear attack by North Korea — Japan's top security concern.


Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.