U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States is willing to hold denuclearization talks with North Korea, but not just for the sake of talks. He also said it is premature to talk about reducing U.S. forces in the Korean Peninsula.
Kerry's announcement came after his meetings Friday in Washington with South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
Kerry said that before there could be any talks, the U.S. needs to be certain that North Korea is prepared to live up to its obligations and abide by international norms of behavior.
So-called "six party" talks with the North involving China, the United States, Japan, Russia and South Korea have had a series of setbacks. The talks produced an agreement in 2005 to provide North Korea with aid in return for Pyongyang taking steps to suspend its nuclear program.
On Thursday, the U.S. and South Korean defense chiefs agreed that for the foreseeable future the United States will take overall command of their combined forces in case of a war, reversing an earlier plan to shift the responsibility to Seoul next year.
The new arrangement, requested by South Korea, delayed the transition of leadership to South Korean command until Seoul has better military capabilities to counter the kinds of nuclear weapons and missile threats posed by North Korea.
The commander of U.S. Forces Korea, Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, said Friday at a Pentagon briefing that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has toned down the rhetoric, but he has not stopped provocative action.
Scaparrotti said North Korea has become more aggressive in the Northwest Islands region and along the DMZ during the year that he has been commander of U.S. Forces Korea.
Scaparrotti added that there have been 10 missile events and that troops under his command have had several brush-ups with North Korean forces in which rounds were exchanged.