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On North Korea, the US and South Korea are united

Following President Obama's State of the Union message, in which he insisted 'North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons,' South Korea and the US are showing a united front on North Korea.

By Donald KirkCorrespondent / January 26, 2011

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (l.) shakes hands with US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg before a meeting in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Jan. 26.

Kim Jae-hwan/AP


Seoul, South Korea

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg had the perfect Korean saying Wednesday to convey the bond between the US and Korea when it comes to North Korea's nuclear weapons program: "We're as close as sticky rice cake."

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That expression summed up the rapport Mr. Steinberg may have achieved in an intensive conversation with South Korea’s foreign minister, Kim Sung-hwan, following President Obama's State of the Union message. Mr. Obama cited the need to "stand with our ally South Korea and insist that North Korea keeps its commitment to abandon nuclear weapons."

South Korea, meanwhile, proposed talks between South and North Korean senior military officers for Feb. 11 at the truce village of Panmunjom where the Koran War armistice was signed in July 1953. Those talks are intended as a prelude to a meeting between defense ministers as requested by North Korea after Mr. Obama and China’s president, Hu Jintao, expressed “willingness to closely cooperate on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” at last week’s White House summit.

Both the Americans and the South Koreans have left little doubt that the talks between defense ministers, if held, will get nowhere unless North Korea seriously addresses the nuclear issue. Us and South Korean officials have repeatedly said North and South Korean negotiators have to meet before resuming six-party talks, last held in Beijing more than two years ago.

“We need concrete steps,” said Steinberg, conveying the results of the Obama-Hu summit to the South Koreans before flying to Japan on the same mission. “We see very much eye to eye,” he said, and China also “understands the importance of North-South dialogue toward more broad-based dialogue.”


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