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Discussions on need for dialogue on N. Korea denuclearization diminish in US: ambassador

Discussions regarding the need for dialogue to address North Korea's nuclear quandary in the United States have dwindled, South Korea's top envoy in Washington said Sunday, indicating growing skepticism over the prospects of long-stalled nuclear diplomacy with the recalcitrant regime.

Ambassador Cho Hyun-dong made the remarks during a parliamentary audit as the North stipulated a policy to beef up its nuclear forces in its constitution last month amid an unceasing drive to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities.

Cho also said that Seoul and Washington plan to hold the second session of the Nuclear Consultative Group, a key deterrence dialogue body, in the US before the end of the year as part of efforts to address growing security concerns in South Korea.

"It is difficult to precisely talk about the proportion, but there is an assessment that the possibility of North Korea's denuclearization is gradually becoming difficult," Cho said.

"I feel that discussions on the need for dialogue to resolve the North's nuclear issue have been gradually dwindling compared with the discussions in the past," he added.

But Cho stressed North Korea's denuclearization through dialogue is a crucial goal of the South Korean government.

Washington has repeatedly underscored its desire to reengage with Pyongyang, but the North has not responded.

The reclusive state has instead entrenched relations with its traditional partners, Russia and China, further casting clouds over the prospects for the resumption of dialogue with the US.

The renewed Israel-Hamas conflict, coupled with Russia's protracted war in Ukraine, has raised speculation that Washington could prioritize addressing the two conflicts, with the North Korean nuclear quandary likely to be put on the back burner.

On the planned second NCG session, Cho said that Seoul and Washington seek to make a robust system to minimize public angst over North Korean nuclear threats.

The creation of the NCG was announced in the Washington Declaration that President Yoon Suk Yeol and US President Joe Biden issued at their White House summit in April to bolster extended deterrence -- America's commitment to use the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend South Korea.

The NCG's inaugural session was held in Seoul in July.

At the audit session, Cho also noted that Washington had informed Seoul of the recent arms transfers between the North and Russia before the White House released such details to the press last week.

On Friday, John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said that between Sept. 7 and Oct. 1, North Korea delivered more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia for use in Ukraine.

When asked about the scenario of the North receiving military assistance from Russia in return for the arms provision, Cho said, "We expect Russia, as a major power, to respond in a prudent manner."

"I think that if that situation (of Russia offering military support to the North) happens, we cannot help but make a serious, decisive decision," he said. (Yonhap)

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