Skip to main content

South Korea 'open to dialogue' with North, minister says

By Paula Hancocks, CNN
January 5, 2012 -- Updated 1101 GMT (1901 HKT)
South Korea Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan said no country in the region knows the intentions of North Korea's new leader.
South Korea Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan said no country in the region knows the intentions of North Korea's new leader.
  • South Korea says not to read too much into harsh recent North Korean rhetoric
  • A top U.S. envoy is in the region after the death of Kim Jong Il
  • North Korea's nuclear program was on the agenda

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea is "open to dialogue" with the new North Korean leadership, despite harsh recent comments from Pyongyang, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan said Thursday.

Kim told reporters not to read too much into North Korea's statement that it would never negotiate with the "Lee Myung Bak group of traitors," a reference to the South Korean president.

Kim said he did not know how much influence North Korea's titular new leader Kim Jong Un had in his own country, underlining once again how little is known about the new North Korean leader.

No country in the region, not even Pyongyang's ally China, knew his future intentions, the South Korean foreign minister said.

North Korean hard line on South remains
U.S. forces deterrent on Korea Peninsula
Kim Jong Il's final farewell

"It is unclear what kind of attitude they will take towards the rest of the world. China is also waiting to hear and see what kind of official position North Korea's regime will take in the future and I think our stance will also be similar to that," said Kim.

He was speaking to reporters with a top U.S. State Department official who is visiting the region to discuss North Korea post-Kim Jong Il, its leader since 1994 who died last month.

Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of State for east Asian and Pacific Affairs, is traveling to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo -- a sign of the concerns the Obama administration and leaders across the region feel about the succession of power and its repercussions for regional security.

"We called on China to do several things," Campbell told reporters, including consulting "closely" with Washington on developments in North Korea.

"We also urged China to make clear the importance of restraint by the new North Korean leadership. We stressed that North Korea should take steps to improve relations with the Republic of Korea and to abide by its international obligations and commitments," Campbell said, using South Korea's official name.

Both Campbell and Kim talked about the on-again, off-again negotiations to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons.

The US has said it is willing to re-start negotiations with Pyongyang and the ball is in their court but Campbell insisted that without improving its relations with its southern neighbor, Pyongyang would find it hard to improve relations with the international community. Campbell heads to Tokyo Friday.

Asked whether South Korea would have to stand aside to allow other regional powers to negotiate with North Korea, Foreign Minister Kim said, "The ultimate goal is about denuclearization. It is not about how we get there it is about the goal itself."

Part of complete coverage on
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT)
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0507 GMT (1307 HKT)
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1215 GMT (2015 HKT)
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 0006 GMT (0806 HKT)
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.