21 Feb 2009

Clinton tells N. Korea to end insults, return to talks

9:32 am on 21 February 2009

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told North Korea to stop being provocative and return to nuclear talks, warning ties could not improve with Washington if it continued insulting South Korea.

Clinton, who was in Seoul on the third stop of her Asia tour, repeated the new US administration's offer of diplomatic relations, massive aid and a peace treaty if North Korea gives up efforts to build an atomic arsenal.

"The most immediate issue is to continue the disablement of their nuclear facilities and to get a complete and verifiable agreement as to the end of their nuclear programme," she told a news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan.

Talks between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States on the North's nuclear ambitions have all but ground to a halt, most recently stuck on Pyongyang's refusal to allow nuclear material to be taken abroad for tests.

Mrs Clinton made clear the North also needed to tone down its increasingly furious rhetoric, which this week alone has included a threat of war with its wealthy neighbour South Korea and an accusation the United States plans a nuclear strike against it.