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Allies urge U.S. to talk to Pyongyang

By CNN Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae

North and South Korea are separated by a tensely-guarded Demilitarized Zone
North and South Korea are separated by a tensely-guarded Demilitarized Zone

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea's outgoing President Kim Dae-jung says the key to resolving the nuclear issue is dialogue between the United States and North Korea.

In his farewell speech, Kim also said U.S. forces should stay on the Korean peninsula to ensure stability.

"We must strongly oppose the North's nuclear activities," Kim said. "The North must give up its nuclear ambitions. But this must be done peacefully through dialogue."

He added, "Most of all, dialogue between North Korea and the United States is the key to resolving this issue."

Similar sentiments were expressed Monday by another key U.S. ally in the region, Australia.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters the U.S. had no alternative but to hold direct talks with North Korea if it wanted to resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Speaking before he left for South Korea for the inauguration of Kim's successor, Roh Moo-hyun, Downer said the U.S. had to sit down and reassure Pyongyang it had no military ambitions towards North Korea.

In exchange, North Korea had to give an undertaking that it would not continue to pursue nuclear weapons programs.

"I do think from our conversations with the North Koreans, and conversations with other countries in the region, that probably at the end of the day there's no alternative," Downer said.

"Whether one likes it or not -- and I don't particularly like it -- this will have to be resolved bilaterally."

The United States has been opposed to dealing with the North Korea issue on a one-to-one basis, saying a multi-lateral diplomatic approach is required.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is currently touring Japan, China and South Korea pushing the U.S. line on both North Korea and Iraq.

In particular, the U.S. is keen to encourage China to take a more active role in reining in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. (Full story)

The outgoing Kim also said that keeping peace on the peninsula required "dialogue and cooperation" between South and North, but also a strong security alliance between Seoul and Washington.

"We need the presence of U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula as a force of stability in Northeast Asia, not only now, but even after unification," Kim said.

Diplomatic relations

"The U.S.-South Korea military alliance is beneficial to both countries. Anti-Americanism, Anti-Koreans -- both needs to be abandoned."

South Korea will inaugurate its new president on Tuesday.

While in In Seoul, Australia's Downer will hold talks with Powell, China's foreign policy czar Qian Qichen and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in a bid to find a coordinated approach to the North Korean crisis.

Australia, one of the few Western countries to have diplomatic relations with reclusive North Korea, has tried to play an active role in the crisis.

Last month it sent senior officials to Pyongyang to try to break the international impasse.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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