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US Envoy Urges North Korea to Improve Relations With South

The top U.S. diplomat for Asian and Pacific affairs says North Korea's new leadership must improve ties with South Korea if it wants to have better relations with the rest of the world.

Speaking in Seoul late Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said the United States will support South Korea's diplomatic dealings with its neighbor in the north.

''If North Korea wants a better relationship with the world then the first stop is a better relationship with South Korea. It is absolutely essential, and the United States wants to work to support that, to encourage that, and to bring a more fulfilling peace and stability to the Asian-Pacific region,'' he said.

Campbell also said that the United States and South Korea hope for diplomatic solutions to the tensions on the peninsula. But he said that hope rests on the reality of their joint military forces ensuring a strong deterrence to support diplomatic efforts.

''Our partnership is so tight, our consultations are so close, that I am confident that whatever happens we will be able to meet the challenge together. And I share with South Korean friends that there is hope in diplomacy. But I must be very clear that hope of diplomacy rests on the reality of a very strong deterrence and military commitment. That will be unwavering,'' Campbell said.

South Korean prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said his country is ready for dialogue and cooperation with North Korea if Pyongyang takes a sincere approach.

''We are ready to expand the conversation and cooperation if North Korea approaches the matter with sincerity. In order for that to happen the denuclearization of North Korea must take place as soon as possible,'' the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, North Korea's state-run television provided footage of the country's new leader Kim Jong Un visiting a school for children of ruling party and military elite last week.

Before his death in December, North Korea's longtime leader Kim Jong Il said Pyongyang was ready to return to six-party talks aimed at getting the communist country to dismantle its nuclear arms programs in exchange for aid. His son and successor Kim Jong Un has yet to state his position on the six-party talks.

South Korea's foreign ministry says its nuclear envoy, Lim Sung-Nam, plans to meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov to discuss the issue. Russia, China, Japan and the United States are parties to the talks with the two Koreas.