U.S. concerned about reckless N. Korea: deputy secretary

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) -- The United States and South Korea are concerned about the recent development in North Korea and its possible provocations, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said Tuesday, expressing commitment to talks for denuclearizing the communist country.

Burns made the remarks during a press briefing in Seoul following the meeting with Seoul's First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun.

The deputy secretary is here for a two-day visit from Monday on the first leg of his three-nation visit to Northeast Asia.

"I think the United States and our friends here share a lot of concerns about the recent behavior of the DPRK leadership, and the dangers of further reckless behavior and provocations in the future," Burns told reporters, referring to the North by its official name: the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Concerns have grown over the uncertainty of the North's political situation following leader Kim Jong-un's stunning decision last month to execute his once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek.

While rejecting Seoul's proposal to hold talks for reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, Pyongyang has continued its peace gesture to Seoul, calling for the cancellation of its upcoming joint military exercises with Washington.

The deputy secretary also vowed continued cooperation with South Korea "in dealing with challenges posed by the North Korean leadership," expressing "strong American support for (South Korean) President Park's principled approach" to North Korea, and to South Korea's defense and security.

"Regarding the possibility of North Korea's (military) provocations, both sides re-confirmed their former stance that they will strongly react to (North Korean) provocations, if they occur, on the basis of allied South Korea-U.S. defense posture," South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement, following the vice-ministerial talk.

Stressing once again the shared goal of "the verifiable denuclearization of the peninsula," Burns said the U.S. and South Korea "remain committed to the resumption of credible and authentic negotiations aimed at denuclearization."

The multilateral talks on ending North Korea's nuclear program that involve the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia have been suspended since late 2008. Refusing to hold dialogue for the sake of dialogue, Seoul and Washington have called on Pyongyang to show sincerity to denuclearize through actions for the resumption of the talks.

Both sides agreed to put the North Korean denuclearization issue as their top priority and continue efforts to produce progress on the issue through close cooperation with related nations, including China, the ministry here also said.

Also touching on the Seoul-Tokyo diplomatic tensions over territory and history-related issues, the ministry quoted Kim as stressing to Burns the need for Japan to make sincere gestures to mend the bilateral ties between the Asian nations.

Later on Tuesday, Burns will fly to China after meeting with Kim Jang-soo, the national security chief to President Park Geun-hye, according to the foreign ministry.

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