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Kerry: U.S. not seeking regime change in N. Korea

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (Yonhap) -- Having shifted his focus to the Asia-Pacific region this month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to assure North Korea that his administration still hopes for dialogue.

The secretary stressed the U.S. and its regional partners are not seeking a regime change in the communist nation.

"I think the six parties involved in the six-party talks have made it crystal clear we are prepared to reengage in those talks," he said at a joint press conference in Tokyo on Thursday (local time), according to a transcript released by the department.

He was speaking after the so-called two-plus-two talks that brought together the top U.S. and Japanese diplomats and defense officials.

"We are prepared to have a peaceful relationship with North Korea. We are not engaged in regime change. We are prepared to sign a non-aggression agreement -- providing North Korea decides to denuclearize and to engage in legitimate negotiations to achieve that end," Kerry said.

Kerry, formerly a long-time senator well-versed in foreign affairs, is widely known for his support for diplomacy on nuclear-armed North Korea.

In the past months, however, he placed more emphasis on dealing with Middle East issues.

Starting with his trip to Tokyo, the secretary is on a two-week tour of Asia that will also take him to Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Ostensibly, U.S. officials have taken a lukewarm attitude toward Pyongyang's recent offer of talks, questioning its intentions.

They urged North Korea to show its seriousness on denuclearization talks with actions, not rhetoric.

Kerry's remarks in Tokyo, however, apparently struck a subtly different tone, concentrating more on easing Pyongyang's concerns over regime security.

He did not forget to reiterate Washington's resolve to break the cycle of Pyongyang's provocations, return to dialogue to gain concessions and resumption of provocative acts.

Kerry said China has become an "important partner" in handling the North Korea issue.

China is struggling to reopen the six-party talks on the North's nuclear program, also involving South Korea, Japan and Russia.

The five nations are "unified in the requirement that the North must commit to denuclearizing," Kerry said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/yonhap-news-agency/131003/kerry-us-not-seeking-regime-change-n-korea