US, South Korea open to talks with North on nuclear programme


US and South Korean leaders said Friday they are willing to sit down with North Korea to resolve concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme if the reclusive regime is willing to renounce atomic weapons.

“At the point where Pyongyang says, ‘We’re interested in seeing relief from sanctions, and we’re prepared to have a serious conversation about denuclearization,’ we’ll be there at the table,” US President Barack Obama said in a White House press conference with visiting South Korean President Park Geun Hye.

Obama and Park discussed the deal between Iran and six world powers, and Park said the deal had important lessons for addressing North Korea.

“The difference is that you need to have this genuine willingness on behalf of North Korea that they are willing to give up nuclear weapons,” Park said.

The leaders reaffirmed US-South Korean defence and security cooperation. They vowed not to accept a North Korean nuclear state and to maintain readiness against any threat.

“Our alliance remains a linchpin of peace and security not just on the Korean peninsula but across the Asia Pacific,” Obama said.

On trade, Park expressed interest in South Korea joining the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal agreed this month.

Obama noted an increase in US-South Korean trade since Washington and Seoul inked a bilateral trade deal earlier in his administration, pointing to an increase in US car exports.

Park is the fourth major Asian leader to visit the White House this year, arriving just weeks after Obama welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Park’s visit to the White House is her second, preceded by a formal state visit in 2013.