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"But if it does, we must bring even tougher measures to bear against the North Korean regime", Haley said. "We will never accept a nuclear North Korea".

While the US has maintained that the North should demonstrate its willingness to denuclearize before being rewarded with talks, the Moon administration is keen on dialogue without preconditions.

Speaking at a press conference at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington DC, Ms Haley presented the remnants of a ballistic missile fired by Houthi militants from Yemen into Saudi Arabia that came close to hitting Riyadh's airport last month.

"It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice against their government, especially when their government has a long history of murdering its own people who dare to speak the truth", said Haley, "so we applaud the tremendous courage of the Iranian people".

Cho suggested the talks be held at the border village of Panmunjom and said they should be focused on North Korea's participation at the Olympics, but other issues would likely arise, including the denuclearization of North Korea.

"The civilized world must remain united and vigilant against the rogue state's development of a nuclear arsenal".

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Choi met North Korean sports official Mun Woong in China on December 18 on the sidelines of a worldwide youth football tournament where North and South Korea soccer teams competed, the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported.

"Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not - we will see!"

"The whole territory of the U.S.is within the range of our nuclear strike and a nuclear button is always on the desk of my office and this is just a reality, not a threat", he said, while emphasising that the weapons would only be used if North Korea was threatened.

"Sanctions and "other" pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea".

The prospect of direct Seoul-Pyongyang talks has raised concern among some analysts that such moves would undermine efforts by the Security Council to cut off trade ties that have supported North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon said the offer for high-level talks next Tuesday had been discussed with the United States.


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