N Korea must take action to defuse tensions: Gates

N Korea must take action to defuse tensions: Gates Tokyo: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates Thursday urged North Korea to take concrete steps to show it is "serious" about talks after the nuclear-armed regime offered a resumption of dialogue in recent days.

Gates, in Tokyo as part of an Asia tour, called on the regime to cease its "belligerent behaviour" and said that US efforts were focused on preventing Pyongyang from resorting to aggression.

Although the US supported reviving talks, "there must be concrete evidence on the part of the North that they are finally serious about these negotiations," Gates said at a news conference with his Japanese counterpart, Toshimi Kitazawa.

During an earlier stop in Beijing, Gates suggested North Korea could prove its sincerity by freezing further missile or nuclear tests.

Describing his talks in the region this week, the Pentagon chief said the United States, Japan, South Korea and China all had a "common interest" in securing peace and stability on the divided Korean peninsula.

Washington has worked with all four countries to try to prevent tensions in the region from spinning out of control after Pyongyang shelled a South Korean island in November, killing four people.

The United States has repeatedly pressed China to exercise its influence with its ally North Korea, and Gates this week credited Beijing with playing a helpful role in recent months.

The North quit six-party nuclear disarmament talks in April 2009 and conducted its second atomic weapons test a month later, but has indicated willingness in principle to return to the talks.

The forum, chaired by the North's major ally China, also includes the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan meanwhile said efforts to revive the negotiations had gained momentum.

"China has slightly different opinions on the North's stance so we have more to discuss (with Beijing)," the minister told Yonhap News Agency.

Despite Pyongyang's positive statements, the United States, Japan and South Korea say the North must mend ties with the South and show seriousness about denuclearisation before discussions resume.

Bureau Report