U.S. not seeking to have Mongolia broker resolution of N. Korea issues: Russel

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) — A senior U.S. official on Friday denied reports that Washington is seeking to have Mongolia play the role of a mediator in resolving the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear program and other issues related to the communist nation.
Japanese media have reported that the U.S., Japan and Mongolia are considering holding their first trilateral foreign ministerial talks in an effort to tap into Mongolia’s close ties with Pyongyang to resolve a series of North Korea-related issues.
“The U.S. and Japan each have our own respective channels for communicating with the DPRK. The problem isn’t that we lack a vehicle for communicating with the North Koreans,” said Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, speaking to reporters at the Foreign Press Center via video conference.
“The problem is that the North Koreans refuse either to negotiate on the nuclear issue or to honor the commitments that they have already made in previous negotiations,” he said. “That’s not to say that there isn’t a constructive goal for Mongolia as a democracy, as a neighbor, and as hopefully, a role model for the DPRK, but it’s not as a mediator.”
   Referring to Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj’s visit to Pyongyang in 2013, Russel also said that the North should heed the Mongolian leader’s calls for reform.
“I think there is great value in the direct, if not blunt, message that he conveyed, speaking as someone who knows after an extended period of communist dictatorship that reform — both political and economic reform — brings immense benefits and brings greater security,” Russel said. “I hope the North Koreans were listening.”
   Russel said that the three-way meeting the foreign ministers of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan held earlier this week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly was useful in increasing cooperation on North Korea issues, especially Pyongyang’s continued violations of U.N. resolutions.
During the meeting, the three ministers warned North Korea that it would face further significant sanctions if it pushes ahead with a long-range rocket launch or a nuclear test.
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