WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It is too premature to talk about reducing American forces in the Korean Peninsula without “authentic and credible” negotiations with Pyongyang about ending its nuclear program, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday.
Kerry said the United States was willing to restart denuclearization talks with North Korea although he emphasized “there is no value in talks just for the sake of talks.”
The issue was discussed between Kerry and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se at the State Department.
“North Korea must demonstrate that it is serious about nuclearization,” Kerry said. “We need to be certain that it is prepared to live up to its international obligations and abide by international norms of behavior.”
But Kerry said just entering into talks with Pyongyang was not enough and the U.S. would remain vigilant against the threat that North Korea posed.
“The mere entering into talks is not an invitation to take any actions regarding troops or anything else,” Kerry said after meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. “If anything, it would be way too premature to have any thought or even discussion of such thing.”
The U.S. presence in South Korea is a key source of anger for North Korea, which regularly threatens to attack the United States and destroy the South in a sea of flames.
So-called “six party” talks with the North involving China, the United States, Japan, Russia and South Korea have had a series of setbacks. The talks produced an agreement in 2005 to provide North Korea with aid in return for Pyongyang taking steps to suspend its nuclear program.
In a surprise move this week North Korea released Jeffrey Fowle, 56, one of three American prisoners imprisoned in the reclusive country. He was freed Tuesday and flown home on a U.S. government plane.
North Korea’s state news agency said Kim Jong Un, the country’s leader, personally ordered the release of Fowle.
Kerry said the two remaining American prisoners in North Korea should be released “because they’re being held inappropriately.”
“Our hope is they will recognize the goodwill that could be built and the gesture that it would offer to the world of their willingness to try to open up a different diplomatic track,” Kerry said.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Bernadette Baum