South Korea urges U.S. to ease North's insecurity

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 2, 2007 4:53pm EST

South Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Song Min-soon and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speak to the media before a meeting at the State Department in Washington, March 2, 2007. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

South Korean Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Song Min-soon and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speak to the media before a meeting at the State Department in Washington, March 2, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States must put aside speculation over whether North Korea can be trusted and work to convince Pyongyang it will be more secure without nuclear arms, South Korea's foreign minister said on Friday.

Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said pondering the trustworthiness of North Korea was "futile" and the key to resolving the nuclear dispute was to show disarmament served the isolated communist state's interests.

"Showing North Korea that the clouds hovering over it have a silver lining will help dispel its sense of insecurity so it may breathe comfortably in its nuclear-free future," Song said in a speech in Washington.

"In this case, security is a subjective state of mind rather than an objective condition of being," he said.

North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test last October and has said it needed the bomb to protect itself from a hostile United States.

Song's U.S. visit is part of a flurry of diplomatic exchanges involving North Korea as parties to the February 13 disarmament agreement begin to implement a complex deal under which the North will abandon its nuclear programs for aid.

The deal reached in Beijing by the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China after three years of diplomacy -- punctuated by the North Korean nuclear test -- requires Washington to discuss normalizing ties with Pyongyang.

North Korean envoy Kim Kye-gwan will meet his U.S. counterpart, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, in New York on Monday and Tuesday to launch what is expected to be a long process of normalizing relations that have been hostile since the two countries fought in the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea, which this week resumed talks with North Korea stalled since the nuclear test, would cooperate with the United States to ensure Seoul's aid to North Korea was "reinforcing progress at the six-party talks." Song said.

"We plan to manage inter-Korean relations strategically so as to enable the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue as this will in turn lead to promotion of inter-Korean dialogue," the South Korean minister said.