S. Korea and U.S. Diligently Engaging in Strategic Level Talks on N. Korea

S. Korea and U.S. Diligently Engaging in Strategic Level Talks on N. Korea

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Deputy National Security Adviser Cho Tae-yong met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Friday for talks about strategies to deal with North Korea.

   Friday's talks came a day after the No. 2 diplomats of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan held a trilateral meeting and agreed that intensifying pressure on Pyongyang is the best way to get the communist regime to move toward denuclearization.

   This week's meetings took place after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's Day address that the country has reached the final stage of preparation to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

   The remark was a thinly veiled threat that Pyongyang is close to developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental U.S., after five underground nuclear blasts and a series of ballistic missile or rocket launches over the past decade.

   After Thursday's trilateral session, Blinken told reporters that the North's weapons capabilities have made a "qualitative improvement" over the past year as a result of an unprecedented level of nuclear and missile tests.

   Blinken also said it is "absolutely vitally important that we exercise sustained comprehensive pressure on North Korea to get it to stop these programs, to come back to the negotiating table and to engage in good faith on denuclearization."

   Friday's talks are the fifth round of U.S.-Korea strategic consultations on North Korea policy. Details of the meeting were not immediately available.

   The State Department said the two sides planned to discuss the international community's response to North Korea's destabilizing violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions and review progress in holding North Korea accountable for its unlawful actions.'

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