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US urges DPRK to halt threats

A SPECIAL envoy from the United States yesterday called for talks with Democratic People's Republic of Korea and urged Pyongyang not to launch a missile and stop issuing threats to the Republic of Korea.

North Korea escalated tensions on Thursday by warning it could not guarantee the safety of South Korea's passenger jets flying near its airspace if annual joint US-South Korea military maneuvers went ahead as planned tomorow.

"We're reaching out now. We want dialogue," Stephen W. Bosworth said upon his arrival in Seoul, the last leg of a regional tour that also took in China and Japan.

The US has not held official talks with the North since President Barack Obama took office earlier this year as his administration formulates its North Korea policy.

Obama's envoy on North Korea also urged Pyongyang to halt its belligerent tone toward its southern neighbor after issuing the warning about the safety of commercial airlines.

"I don't think the warning was very helpful," Bosworth said. "Everyone would be much happier if they would drop that line of rhetoric."

The comments came amid heightened tensions over stalled reconciliation efforts on the divided Korean peninsula.

Bosworth also said the North's expected launch of a missile or satellite was "very ill-advised."

Pyongyang has said it was preparing to send a communications satellite into space but regional powers suspect the claim is a cover for the launch of a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska.

Bosworth met Russia's nuclear envoy in Seoul but he declined to elaborate. He also plans to hold consultations with South Korean officials tomorrow before flying home.

The joint US-South Korean military exercises are scheduled to go for 12 days from tomorrow. Washington and Seoul say the exercises are defensive, not preparation for an invasion as North Korea claims. The US military said it would go ahead with the drills involving its 26,000 military personnel in South Korea, an unspecified number of southern soldiers and a US aircraft carrier.

The exercises are a "grave military provocation that greatly threatens peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

The Koreas technically remain at war because their 1950-53 war ended in a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty.


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