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Kerry says no deal with N. Korea for freed American

22 october 2014, 17:32

 US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that Washington had made no concessions to North Korea to win the release of one of three Americans detained in the isolated country, AFP reports.

"No, there was no quid pro quo," Kerry said during a visit to Berlin, a day after the White House announced Jeffrey Fowle had left Pyongyang where was arrested earlier this year.

"We are very concerned about the remaining American citizens who are in North Korea, and we have great hopes that North Korea will see the benefit of releasing them also as soon as possible," he added.

The two other Americans still held, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae, are both now serving time in hard labour camps.

"We're in constant touch with their families, we're working on their release, we've talked to Chinese and others, and we have a high focus on it," Kerry told a joint press conference with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Washington has condemned Pyongyang over the detentions, saying the men were being held as political hostages to extract diplomatic concessions.

The nuclear-armed North wants a resumption of stalled six-party nuclear negotiations, but the United States and South Korea insist it must first prove it is committed to denuclearisation, a point Kerry reiterated in Germany.

"We hope to get back to talks," said Kerry. "But we need some indication from (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un and the regime that they are in fact prepared to talk seriously about the central topic of the talks, which is the issue of denuclearisation."

"We do not want to return to talks just for the sake of talks. We've been there before... The march towards their nuclear programme has continued, in fact with greater level of threat than before."

Kerry said that "we hope that the dynamics can develop in the next weeks, months perhaps, where we could get back to talks, and the United States is absolutely prepared to do that.

"We've said from day one: If North Korea wants to rejoin the community of nations, it knows how to do it. It can come to the talks prepared to discuss denuclearisation.

"And the United States is fully prepared if they do that and begin that process... to begin the process of reducing the need for American force and presence in the region because the threat would then be reduced."

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The North has also always reacted angrily to any joint US-South Korean military exercises, with the border dividing the two Koreas remaining one of the most heavily militarised frontiers in the world.

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