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U.S. ready to talk with North, but will continue joint exercises with allies

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State Department Press Secretary Ned Price is seen speaking during a daily press briefing in Washington on Jan. 13 in this captured image. [YONHAP]
State Department Press Secretary Ned Price is seen speaking during a daily press briefing in Washington on Jan. 13 in this captured image. [YONHAP]

The United States is ready to engage in talks with North Korea but will continue to coordinate defensive exercises with allies in the region if Pyongyang keeps up its provocations and refuses to engage in diplomacy, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Thursday in Washington.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, State Department Press Secretary Ned Price also called Wednesday night’s military parade in Pyongyang “propaganda exercises” by the North but declined to share Washington’s assessment of an apparent mock-up for a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that was on display during the procession.

“We are prepared to engage in dialogue, in diplomacy with the DPRK to that end,” Price said, adding, “In the absence of any apparent inclination on the part of the DPRK to do that, we are going to continue to coordinate closely, to sit down to engage in diplomacy with our allies — Japan, ROK in this case, but also with partners and allies around the world.”

DPRK and ROK are the acronyms for the official names of North and South Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.

Price also said that joint “defensive maneuvers” by the United States and its regional allies “ensure that we make good on the commitment that we have to the ROK and Japan that our commitment to their security remains ironclad,” and said Washington’s approach to Pyongyang “will remain the same” if the latter does not change its behavior.

North Korea’s foreign ministry said Thursday that the regime is not interested in dialogue with the United States as long as Washington pursues what the regime calls a “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

“The escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula and in the region is entirely attributable to the hostile policy of the United States, which forces the DPRK to disarm itself unilaterally by dint of sanctions and military pressure and pursues the military expansion of its allies,” said an unidentified ministry spokesperson quoted in an English-language report by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un poses with top military brass and participants in the Feb. 8 military parade in Pyongyang in a commemorative photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on Thursday. To his immediate left stands Ri Pyong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party. [YONHAP]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un poses with top military brass and participants in the Feb. 8 military parade in Pyongyang in a commemorative photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on Thursday. To his immediate left stands Ri Pyong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party. [YONHAP]

The KCNA on Friday also released remarks made by leader Kim Jong-un at a photo session with parade participants that indicated his regime would not slow down its military’s development of more powerful weapons.

Kim said that suppressing “the increasingly brutal imperialist tyranny by force” requires the North’s army to “grow stronger at an incomparably faster speed than that of the past history,” according to the KCNA.

State media on Wednesday played footage of soldiers in the regime’s special forces training outdoors in snow-covered terrain during the parade in Pyongyang as part of the regime’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of its military.

Footage broadcast by the Korean Central Televsion during Wednesday's parade in Pyongyang showed soldiers from the regime's special forces training outdoors. [YONHAP]
Footage broadcast by the Korean Central Televsion during Wednesday’s parade in Pyongyang showed soldiers from the regime’s special forces training outdoors. [YONHAP]

Kim also praised participants for elevating the military parade as an event “specially recorded in history,” claiming it constituted “a clearer description of the prestige and greatness, high honor and rosy future of our state.”

Top military officials who attended the photo session included Ri Pyong-chol and Ri Yong-gil, both vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers’ Party.

Ankit Panda, a senior researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Radio Free Asia on Thursday that the North’s recent activities, such as displaying a solid-fuel ICBM mock-up and testing a solid-fuel engine that the Pyongyang’s state media claimed was for a “new-type strategic weapons system,” indicated the North would conduct its first test of a solid-fuel ICBM in a few months.

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]