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U.S. vows close consultations with S. Korea's new leader on N. Korea
SEOUL, Nov. 13 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama in his second term is ready to consult closely with the winner of next month's presidential election in South Korea on how to deal with North Korea's nuclear weapons program, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

   The foreign ministry official made the remarks after he met with senior U.S. diplomats in Washington, including James Zumwalt, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs and Clifford Hart, Washington's special envoy for the six-nation talks on ending the North's nuclear program. The meetings took place shortly after Obama won re-election.

   Some analysts have expressed concern that the current lockstep alliance between South Korea and the U.S. is unlikely to be sustainable, particularly for North Korea policy. Whoever wins the Dec. 19 presidential election in South Korea, a new leader is expected to take a more conciliatory stance toward North Korea than outgoing President Lee Myung-bak.
Obama, in his second term, "is willing to hold close consultations with South Korea on its policy on North Korea, based on the spirit of alliance," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

   The Obama second term is not expected to adopt a major change in its policy on North Korea, the official said, adding that a looming reshuffle of his foreign-policy and security team would be an indicator of which direction Obama plans to go with regard to the North's nuclear issue.

   "U.S. officials are watching the presidential election in South Korea with great interest, but they expressed their willingness to fine-tune policies with the next Korean government," the official said.

   Diplomatic efforts to reopen the six-party talks, which were last held in late 2008, have been frozen since the North's April rocket launch, but analysts expect regional powers to resume diplomacy with North Korea sometime next year.

   The six-party talks aimed at diplomatically persuading the North to give up its nuclear ambitions include the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
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