South Korea's top official responsible for relations with North Korea urged the United States on Monday to hold direct talks with the North to resolve concerns over its missile development, human rights abuses and other non-nuclear issues, a report said Monday. The remarks by Unification Minister Chung Dong-young reflected concerns that a deepening row between Washington and North Korea over U.S. sanctions against the communist state could undermine six-nation talks on ending the North's nuclear programs.
Non-nuclear complaints by the United States against North Korea "should be solved by bilateral talks between the two parties," Chung told a forum, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency. "As the six-party talks focus on resolving the nuclear issue, other matters should be separated from the six-party issue." Chung listed the North's missiles, biochemical and conventional weapons and human rights abuses, as well as its alleged involvement in drug trafficking and counterfeiting of money, as among the major non-nuclear issues.
The U.S. has so far showed no willingness to separate the nuclear and non-nuclear issues, discussing both at the six-nation talks. It has also rejected the North's demand for one-on-one negotiations, saying all countries in the region must be involved in efforts to get it to disarm.
The latest round of six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, recessed in November with no signs of progress. Participants agreed to meet again soon, but a date hasn't been set.
Prospects for a resumption of the negotiations dimmed last week after North Korea reacted angrily to financial sanctions imposed by Washington over alleged counterfeiting and money laundering. North Korea had warned that such actions could affect the nuclear talks, reports the AP. I.L.