US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that North Korea needs to decide whether it wants to engage diplomatically to find ways to achieve the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
Talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to surrender its nuclear weapons programme have stalled since the collapse of a third summit between President Joe Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
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“I hope that North Korea will take the opportunity to engage diplomatically, and to see if there are ways to move forward toward the objective of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” Blinken said at a news conference in London on Monday.
“And so we’ll look to see not only what North Korea says but what it actually does,” Blinken said.
“It is, I think, up to North Korea to decide whether it wants to engage or not on that basis.”
North Korea earlier lashed out at the United States in a series of statements saying recent comments from Washington were proof of a hostile policy that required a corresponding response.
The Biden administration announced its new North Korea policy on Friday following a lengthy review.
China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said he hoped the review placed more emphasis on dialogue, instead of pressure. China is a neighbour and ally of Pyongyang.
“Based on what we have seen in the past years we do believe that diplomatic efforts represent the right direction,” Zhang told reporters in New York on Monday. “And we also hope that both parties will … refrain from taking provocative and confrontational actions and make more efforts by resuming dialogue.”
‘No grand bargain’
Complete denuclearisation of North Korea remains the US goal under the new policy, with the administration saying it would explore diplomacy but not seek a “grand bargain” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Biden’s policy attempts to strike a middle ground between Trump’s efforts and those of former President Barack Obama, who refused serious diplomatic engagement unless Pyongyang took steps to reduce tensions.
North Korea wants the US and its allies to lift economic sanctions imposed over its weapons programmes and has so far refused diplomatic entreaties from the Biden administration.
The White House has not said whether it will offer concessions to get North Korea to return to talks.
Blinken is in the UK capital for the first in-person Group of Seven meetings in two years.
Blinken consulted his counterparts from Japan and South Korea on Biden’s fresh approach.
The US’s top diplomat acknowledged that successive administrations, including from the Democratic Party, had failed to halt the nuclear work of North Korea, which has carried six atomic bomb tests since 2006.
“What we have now is a policy that calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with North Korea to try to make practical progress,” Blinken said.
The three-day talks in London will set the stage for a leaders’ summit next month in southwest England on what will be Biden’s first foreign trip as US president.