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Twitter Send 2010/04/24 04:07 KST
Clinton warns N. Korea against provocations leading to conflict

By Hwang Doo-hyong
WASHINGTON, April 23 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday warned North Korea against any provocations or miscalculation that could lead to conflict on the Korean Peninsula amid rising tensions after the sinking of a South Korean warship last month.

   "I hope that there is no talk of war, there is no action or miscalculation that could provoke a response that might lead to conflict," Clinton said at a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, according to a transcript released by the State Department. "That's not in anyone's interest."

   In a news conference, she was responding to a question about North Korea's seizing of South Korean assets in a mountain resort in North Korea and threats of a war that cited South Korea's efforts to link the sinking to North Korea.

   North Korea has denied any involvement, but South Korean officials have hinted a North Korean torpedo attack might have destroyed the 1,200-ton Cheonan, killing 39 sailors and leaving seven others missing. The Seoul government has not yet officially determined the exact cause.

   The U.S. has sent more than 10 military and civilian experts to join a multinational team to investigate the cause. Other countries include Britain, Australia and Sweden.

   Clinton called on North Korea to return to the six-party talks to discuss its denuclearization.

   "Our position is very clear," she said. "We have said time and time again that the North Koreans should not engage in provocative actions and that they should return to the six-party talks, where we and our partners in those talks are prepared to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and then other matters that may be of concern to any one of the parties, including North Korea."

   Pyongyang demands the U.N. lift sanctions imposed after its nuclear and missile tests early last year, and start negotiations for a peace treaty before its returns to the multilateral nuclear talks. Washington wants Pyongyang to come back to the nuclear talks first.

   Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, said he is still optimistic on the reopening of the nuclear talks, which have been on and off since they were launched in 2003.

   "As we look ahead today, we of course face a set of uncertainties in the short-term as we await the results of the investigation of the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel," Bosworth told a seminar in New York. "But looking beyond that I think that there is reason to believe that multilateral engagement remains the essential condition for making progress on greater stability, denuclearization, peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula."

   State Department spokesman Philip Crowley echoed Clinton.

   "As the secretary said earlier today, we would like to see, you know, North Korea avoid provocative steps and begin to act more constructively," he told a daily news briefing.

   South Korea is considering bringing the case to the U.N. Security Council for stronger sanctions if North Korea is confirmed to be behind the sinking, a move the U.S. supports.

   North Korea said recently that the Obama administration's new nuclear policy has chilled the atmosphere for the resumption of the six-nation negotiations, threatening to bolster its nuclear weapons and modernize them as a deterrent.

   The U.S. earlier this month officially renounced for the first time the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear weapons states that are in compliance with international nonproliferation obligations, but leaves open a nuclear strike on North Korea and Iran.