U.S., S. Korean Diplomats to Meet as U.S. Pushes for Tougher Sanctions on N. Korea

A top U.S. envoy plans to hold talks with South Korean officials as Washington warned of aggressive sanctions on North Korea unless Pyongyang returns to the stalled multinational talks on ending its nuclear programs.

Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, was to meet his South Korean counterpart later in the day and Seoul's foreign minister and its top nuclear envoy on Monday.

The meetings come as the U.S. is moving to enforce U.N. as well as its own sanctions against the communist regime for its May 25 nuclear test. Campbell held talks with Japanese officials on North Korea this past week and called for implementation of the U.N. sanctions.

"We would like to see North Korea return to a process and to begin to take irreversible steps toward denuclearization of the peninsula," U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters on Friday in Washington.

He warned that the U.S. will keep pressure on North Korea into giving up its nuclear programs, saying Washington is "aggressively implementing" the U.N. sanctions until the North returns to the nuclear talks and take steps toward denuclearization.

The six-nation talks came to a halt in April when North Korea withdrew to protest a U.N. statement condemning what Pyongyang described as a satellite launch. The U.S., and its allies said the launch was a long-range missile test.

Kim Yong Nam, the North's No. 2 official, this week said Pyongyang was not ready to resume nuclear disarmament talks because the U.S. and its allies do not respect the country's sovereignty.

The talks — which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia — were last held in Beijing.

North Korea's "nuclear weapon is not for invading or threatening others but is war deterrence for defending the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula," Kim said in a Wednesday's speech at the Non-Aligned Summit in Egypt, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday.

He also said his country "is opposed to a nuclear war, nuclear arms race and nuclear proliferation."

But Crowley said the U.S. is seeking to take steps to ensure that North Korea is less able to proliferate technology and weapons elsewhere in the world.