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US wants to work with N.Korea after mourning

22 december 2011, 18:35
Members of the Korean People's Army crying for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang. ©AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS
Members of the Korean People's Army crying for late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang. ©AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS
The United States said Wednesday it hoped to work with North Korea after its mourning for late leader Kim Jong-Il and confirmed it had been in contact with the regime by telephone, AFP reports.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was cautious about the future of diplomacy with North Korea but said that the United States hoped in the future to resume dialogue over possible US food aid to the impoverished state.

"Obviously, we want to continue working on these issues," Nuland told reporters, referring to the discussions on nutritional assistance.

"We've made clear to the DPRK the information that we are still seeking, and we are also appreciative that this is not a moment in Pyongyang where we're likely to have fresh instructions until after the mourning period," she said, using the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

US and North Korean officials held talks last week in Beijing about the practicalities of food aid to the communist state, which has been pressing for months for help to address what foreign aid groups say is severe hunger.

The State Department was expected to make decisions starting on Monday. But instead its meetings were dominated by the bombshell news that strongman Kim Jong-Il was dead and being replaced by his young, little-known son Kim Jong-Un.

Nuland said the United States and North Korea made contact again Monday by telephone through Pyongyang's mission at the United Nations in New York, the usual channel between the two governments which do not have diplomatic ties.

Nuland said the telephone call, which came after Kim's death, was meant to seek more information to help the United States decide whether to offer food assistance or schedule future talks with North Korea.

"Obviously, given the situation in North Korea, the folks on the other end of the phone were not newly instructed," Nuland said.

"So from our perspective, we want to be respectful of the period of mourning, but the ball's in North Korea's court," she said.

The United States has insisted that food aid is a humanitarian issue divorced from politics, but it has also insisted it will not restart formal talks until Pyongyang recommits to past agreements on giving up its nuclear weapons.

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