SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea and the United States expressed a united front Thursday against North Korea's nuclear test and support of U.N. sanctions, but there were no signs that Seoul would immediately move to adopt Washington's hard-line approach to dealing with Pyongyang.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she didn't mean to pressure the South to take any specific steps during a visit to the South Korean capital, where she met President Roh Moo-hyun and Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon.
However, Rice added: "Everyone should take stock of the leverage we have to get North Korea to return to the six-party talks." She was referring to international arms talks that have been on hold since last year.
The two diplomats also called on the North to return unconditionally to those talks, which also include China, Japan and Russia. However, Rice said real progress would have to be made if the talks were to resume.
"The U.S. has no desire to do anything to escalate the situation," Rice said at a news conference alongside Ban. "We want to leave open the path of negotiation, we don't want the crisis to escalate."
The U.S. also expressed its support of its alliance with the South, with Rice calling it one of the "firm pillars of stability and security" on the peninsula and in the region.
The South has faced criticism for a pair of landmark inter-Korean projects — a tourism venture and joint economic zone, both in North Korea — that are symbols of hopes for the peninsula's reunification.
Ban said Seoul would consider adjusting those projects to have them come in line with the recent U.N. Security Council resolution sanctioning the North and international demands. He also said he explained the merits of the industrial zone to facilitate reforms in the communist nation, and that he believed the U.S. understood.
Meanwhile, hopes for a possible diplomatic resolution of the standoff grew after China said Thursday that a top envoy had met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang. Rice also expressed support for the Chinese mission.