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Ambassador says U.S. ready to 'engage constructively' with N. Korea
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- The American ambassador to South Korea said Friday Washington is ready to engage "constructively" with North Korea if the communist state lives up to its commitment to disarmament and opens up to the international community.

   "We have been clear that we are prepared to engage constructively with North Korea," Ambassador Sung Kim said during a lecture hosted by the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses. "However, North Korea must live up to its commitments and adhere to its international obligations and deal peacefully with its neighbors."

   It is the North that walked away from the six-party talks, but still, Washington and Seoul are prepared to re-engage in the multilateral process for its disarmament, Kim said.


The envoy's remarks came in response to high interest in the Obama administration's policy on North Korea in its second term, while both ruling and opposition parties in South Korea have pledged to improve relations with the communist state in the run-up to next month's presidential election.

   Kim, a Korean-born diplomat, reaffirmed his commitment to a strong alliance between the two nations to handle security challenges constantly posed by Pyongyang.

   "North Korea's irresponsible pursuit of nuclear weapons and missiles poses a serious threat to all of us," Kim said. "We are continuing to work together to improve our combined defense capabilities."

   Regarding the recent agreement to revise the missile guideline to nearly triple the missile range to 800 kilometers, Kim said it is a "smart" and "proportionate" response to the North's ballistic missiles and nuclear threats.

   "The two governments have been constantly looking at ways to improve combined combat capabilities," Kim said. "I fully expect the two sides will continue to have a series of discussions about what other ways we can employ to improve our deterrent capabilities."

   The two sides have been in close consultations to maintain high military readiness after the transition of wartime operational command control (OPCON) to Seoul at the end of 2015. Kim said government officials have been discussing ways to create "a sort of review mechanism" to replace the Combined Forces Command (CFC), which has served as a control tower of their actual military partnerships. The CFC will be dismantled when Seoul regains its OPCON at the end of 2015.

   "As partners whose alliance is a linchpin of stability in Northeast Asia, we take seriously our mission of maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the region," Kim said.