x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

US wants talks with N Korea

The new US envoy for North Korea wants to have talks with the communist state, as he warned against its planned rocket launch.

The new US envoy on North Korea said Washington wants dialogue with Pyongyang, amid concerns about the communist state's possible plans to test-fire a missile and a lack of progress on de-nuclearisation. Stephen Bosworth, on his first tour of Asia since being appointed US envoy for North Korea last month, also warned the regime against launching a long-range missile, calling such a plan "ill-advised".

"We're reaching out now. We want dialogue," he said on arrival at Seoul's Incheon airport, when asked when Washington planned to reach out to the North. North Korea has announced it is readying to fire a rocket for what it calls a satellite launch, but which Washington believes is a test of a long-range missile that could theoretically reach Alaska. Asked whether he would visit the North or meet with North Korean officials even if Pyongyang goes ahead with the launch, Mr Bosworth said that was "a complicated subject".

"We've indicated our position to them on the question of the missile launch, or satellite launch, or whatever they call it. We think it's very ill-advised," he said. Mr Bosworth also urged Pyongyang to cease all threats against South Korean planes near its airspace, saying he did not think the warning was helpful. "I think everyone would be a lot happier if they would drop that line of rhetoric," he said.

On Thursday Pyongyang said it could not guarantee security for Seoul's commercial flights near its territory during a 12-day US-South Korean military exercise starting on Monday, forcing the rerouting of about 200 flights. Pyongyang every year denounces the Key Resolve-Foal Eagle exercise as a rehearsal for invasion, while the US-led United Nations Command says the drill is purely defensive. But inter-Korean tensions are running high this year after the North on January 30 announced it was scrapping all peace accords with the South.

Analysts suspect the North is taking a tougher stance as it competes for US President Barack Obama's attention with other world hot spots. * AFP