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U.S. VP Biden says no tolerance for nuclear arms in N.Korea

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves upon his arrival at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves upon his arrival at Osan Air Base, south of Seoul December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Friday that North Korea would never achieve prosperity as long as it continued to pursue nuclear arms, but added Washington remained open to dialogue if Pyongyang can show its willingness to honor its commitments.

North Korea has forged ahead with its nuclear development after declaring the so-called six-party talks dead in 2008, overturning its commitments made under a 2005 disarmament deal aimed at rewarding it with economic incentives.

"The United States and the world have to make it absolutely clear to Kim Jong Un that the international community will not accept or tolerate nuclear arms in North Korea," Biden said in a speech in Seoul, referring to the reclusive state's leader.

"The simple fact is this - North Korea can never achieve security and prosperity so long as it pursues nuclear weapons, period," Biden said.

"We are prepared to go back to the six-party talks when North Korea demonstrates its full commitment to a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization," he added.

North Korea has come under tougher U.N. sanctions after its third nuclear test in February which is believed to have boosted its effort to build a nuclear arsenal. The test defied international warnings, including by its main ally China.

Biden met South Korean President Park Geun-hye earlier as part of a visit to the region that also took him to Beijing and Tokyo. The tour came as fresh tensions erupted with China over a new air defense zone declared by Beijing.

Biden reiterated Washington's position that it does not accept China's new air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

"I was absolutely clear on behalf of my president: We do not recognize the zone. It will have no effect on American operations. None. Zero," Biden said, referring to discussions he held in Beijing earlier in the week.

Biden will visit the border separating North and South Korea on Saturday before returning to the United States.

Pyongyang which is technically still at war with South Korea and views Washington as an imperialist aggressor, is also holding two Americans captive. One of the detainees is a Korean War veteran who served as an adviser to an anti-communist guerrilla unit during the war.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Michael Perry)

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