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US says North Korea diplomacy ‘very much alive'

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WASHINGTON The chief US envoy for North Korea said that "diplomacy is still very much alive" with Pyongyang despite a failed summit last month.

But he cautioned that Washington was closely watching activity at a North Korean rocket site and did not know if it might be planning a new launch.

Mr Stephen Biegun told a conference in Washington that although US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un parted on good terms after their Feb 27-28 summit in Hanoi, big gaps remained between the two sides and North Korea needed to show it was fully committed to giving up its nuclear weapons.

Mr Biegun, the US special representative for North Korea, stressed that US-led sanctions, which Pyongyang wants dropped, would stay in place until North Korea completed denuclearisation.

He rejected an incremental approach sought by Pyongyang, and said that easing sanctions for partial steps would amount to subsidising North Korea's weapons programmes.

As Mr Biegun spoke at the Carnegie Nuclear Conference, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank issued a new report on activity at North Korea's Sohae rocket launch site, in which satellite images from Friday showed possible preparations for a launch.

Mr Biegun said Washington did not know what the activity spotted in North Korea meant.

He said the Trump administration took it "very seriously" but cautioned against drawing any snap conclusions.

A national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae In said yesterday the US should seek the gradual denuclearisation of North Korea because an "all-or-nothing" strategy will not help break the impasse in talks. - REUTERS