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S. Korean lawmaker: Obama broke word on talks

North Korea may give up nukes if U.S. meets demands

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SEOUL — A top South Korean opposition lawmaker is criticizing President Obama for failing to hold direct talks with North Korea as he said he would.

National Assembly member Park Joo-sun told visiting reporters that getting North Korea to disarm would "not be easy," but it would be "possible" if the U.S. and South Korea agree to some of the demands of leader Kim Jong II's regime.

"As a condition for giving up its nuclear program, North Korea is asking for direct dialogue between the north and the U.S.," said Mr. Park, chairman of the Special Committee on Improving Inter-Korean Relations. "Mr. Obama, before he took office, actually mentioned such direct talks with North Korea.

"But regardless of North Korea's demands, the U.S. has failed to take an active measure on this issue, and as a result, we have not seen much progress in the denuclearization of North Korea."

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Obama said that he would engage in direct dialogue with the leaders of rogue states like North Korea and Iran.

However, such talks have yet to take place. Washington has largely deferred on North Korean issues to Seoul, which has said it will not hold high-level talks with the North until it apologizes for two deadly military atacks last year.

Those incidents — the sinking of South Korea's Cheonan warship and the shelling of Yongpyong Island — have hardened South Korean opinion against the North.

But some opposition lawmakers, like Mr. Park, continue to advocate a more conciliatory line.

"North Korea is asking for the U.S. to establish diplomatic relations with it, to provide economic aid, and also for the [1953] armistice agreement to be changed into a peace agreement, and, fourth, for the U.S. to guarantee its regime," Mr. Park said. "If we give what North Korea wants on these issues, I believe it will be possible to make it to give up its nuclear program."

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About the Author

Ben Birnbaum

Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.

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