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US Envoy: Washington Ready for Talks With North Korea

A top U.S. diplomat for East Asia and Pacific Affairs says the United States is willing to talk with North Korea if it abandons its nuclear ambitions.

Kurt Campbell told reporters in South Korea Saturday that the U.S. is following a two-track strategy. He said the United States also is pressing for the enforcement of United Nations sanctions against the regime in Pyongyang.

Campbell arrived in Seoul from Tokyo, where he discussed the North Korean nuclear threat with Japanese officials. The two sides agreed to set up regular talks on boosting the U.S. defense of Japan against a possible attack by North Korea.

The U.S. official said the first bilateral discussion will take place in Washington in several weeks.

Pyongyang's second nuclear test in May and a series of ballistic missile launches this year have prompted Japanese hard-line politicians to call for a debate on whether Japan should acquire its own nuclear arms as a deterrent. That issue is a sensitive one in Japan, the only country to suffer a nuclear attack.

Campbell said Friday in Tokyo that it is important to send a collective message to North Korea that it is not too late to return to what he called "responsible negotiations."

North Korea's nominal number two leader Kim Yong Nam said Wednesday that talks with foreign powers are not possible without respect for the sovereignty of the communist state.

Campbell will head for Thailand early next week, to join U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a regional forum of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). North Korea is expected to be discussed on the sidelines of that forum.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.