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US: North Korea in 'Charm Stage'

U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley says he can understand South Korea's decision to reject North Korea's latest appeal for inter-Korean talks. Crowley said North Korea needs to take significant steps to show it is serious about easing tensions.

Crowley cited North Korea's sinking of South Korea's Cheonan warship and the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010 as reasons for South Korea to be wary of the North's latest proposal for talks. "We went through, you know, last year a provocative stage. We're now in the charm stage. But, you know, the charm stage has to be followed up with a real demonstration that North Korea is prepared for sustained and constructive dialogue," he said.

In its official notice to the South, Pyongyang promised to reopen a Red Cross border liaison office and proposed a date for talks in late January. Seoul rejected the appeal, calling it a tactic to gain more humanitarian aid.

Crowley emphasized that the United States encourages dialogue between North and South Korea. But, he said, the North must show the dialogue would be productive. "First and foremost, if North Korea makes a public pledge, you know, not to attack South Korea or undertake further provocations that threaten South Korea, that would be a significant step to improve the environment, and it would be one among many steps that North Korea could take that would convince South Korea that dialogue would be constructive," he said.

South Korea has said the North can show its sincerity by accepting responsibility for the separate, deadly attacks on the South Korean warship and island. Pyongyang denies sinking the warship.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao are expected to discuss North Korea when Mr. Hu visits the U.S. next week.