The US secretary of state has stressed the prospects for resolving tensions on the Korean peninsula as he met with leaders in Seoul. "Relations between the North and South can improve very quickly if leaders of the North, and one in particular, can make the right decisions," John Kerry said.
The new South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, had "expressed a vision built on trustpolitik - and I hope that is what will take hold", Kerry added. But he warned: "They have to be really serious. No one is going to talk for the sake of talking."
Kerry, who reiterated that the international community would not accept a nuclear-capable North Korea, echoed the Pentagon in playing down an assessment by a US government agency that Pyongyang had a nuclear weapon that could be mounted on a missile. The South's foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, added: "We hope the DPRK will make the right choice and engage in trustpolitik."
An expert on the North, John Delury at Yonsei University, said: "The message here was dialogue, but still in passive form: 'It's up to North Korea' … It's still not enough."
The tensions on the peninsula are expected to dominate Kerry's meetings in South Korea, China and Japan.
Pyongyang has engaged in a series of angry threats and gestures, such as pulling workers of the Kaesong industrial complex it shares with the South, and appears to be preparing its launch base. It often carries out tests around significant political dates, such as Monday's anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, lauded as the country's founder.
But Park, meeting officials from her party before talks with Kerry, suggested Seoul should at least listen to what North Korea had to say. According to local media, she told them: "We have a lot of issues, including the Kaesong industrial zone. So should we not meet with them and ask: 'Just what are you trying to do?'"