U.S. official urges improvement in S. Korea-DPRK ties

15:35, June 10, 2011      

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Relations between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) need to improve, a senior U.S. official visiting Seoul said Friday, as the two Koreas wrangle over their secret meeting last month.

Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said he reviewed recent developments in inter- Korean relations with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and deputy minister Kim Jae-shin, voicing support for cross-border dialogue.

His Asian tour, which also brought the diplomat to China, Mongolia and Indonesia, came as the two Koreas offer different accounts of their Beijing meeting in May, where Pyongyang said Seoul officials "begged" for inter-Korean summits and attempted to offer bribes for concessions.

After South Korea dismissed the claim as "unilateral" and " unworthy of a response," the DPRK threatened to disclose recordings of their secret meeting to prove wrong Seoul's insistence that the talks were primarily aimed at persuading Pyongyang to apologize for two deadly incidents last year.

The ongoing dispute dims chances for imminent inter-Korean dialogue, seen as a precondition for resuming stalled six-party talks. Seoul, along with Beijing and Washington, has sought a three-step approach beginning with inter-Korean dialogue to reopening the talks.

"We have many areas of common approach between the United States and China, and South Korea and China, but also a few areas of difference, but I think we all agree that there has to be an improvement between the North and the South," Campbell told reporters after meetings with his counterparts here.

The Chinese "very much want to see improvement in dialogue" between the two estranged Koreas, the diplomat added.

He also voiced support for South Korea's demand that the DPRK should apologize for sinking a warship and shelling a border island before resuming the six-party talks. A total of 50 South Koreans, including two civilians, were killed in the incidents.

"We believe that the central approach that South Korea has laid out is the right one. We would like to see the resumption of talks and dialogue, but we also believe the South Korean approach will bear fruit," Campbell said.

The DPRK denies its involvement in the sinking and claims its artillery bombardment on the western island was provoked by military drills between Seoul and Washington near the disputed western sea border.

Campbell is scheduled to leave Seoul after meeting with Wi Sung-lac, South Korea's top envoy to the six-party talks.

Source: Xinhua
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