John Kerry has no plan to talk with North Korean First Minister in Malaysia

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (Yonhap) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has no plans to meet one-on-one with his counterpart from North Korea on the sidelines of a regional security conference set for this week in Malaysia, the State Department said Tuesday.

Kerry arrived in Kuala Lumpur earlier Tuesday to attend a series of annual meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Asia’s biggest annual security gathering, known as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

ARF is one of the rare international gatherings that North Korea has regularly attended and brings together the top diplomats from 27 countries, including all countries involved in the six-party talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear program.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner dismissed the possibility of Kerry meeting one-on-one with Ri.

“He will be having many bilateral meetings. Obviously, he left Singapore earlier today. He’s now in Kuala Lumpur,”

Toner said at a regular press briefing. “I don’t have anything to confirm, but I can imagine he’ll be trying to meet with as many of his counterparts as he possibly can.”

Asked if there is any possibility of Kerry meeting with the North’s Ri, however, the spokesperson said, “I don’t believe so.”

Last month’s breakthrough deal on Iran’s nuclear program briefly raised hope Washington would be able to pay more attention to the North Korean nuclear issue, but such hopes were quickly dashed as both Washington and Pyongyang stuck to their existing positions.

U.S. officials have urged Pyongyang to learn from Tehran and negotiate away its nuclear programs, demanding that the North first take action demonstrating its denuclearization commitments. The North, on the other hand, has said it is not interested in an Iranian-style nuclear deal.

The six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean impasse have been idled since late 2008.

While the six-party talks have been on hold, the North has bolstered its nuclear capabilities and stockpile, conducting its second and third nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013. Some experts now warn that the communist nation’s nuclear arsenal could expand to up to 100 bombs by 2020.

jschang@yna.co.kr

(END)

Yonhap News agency

 

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