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[NEWS ANALYSIS]What is behind North`s approach to South?

[NEWS ANALYSIS]What is behind North`s approach to South?

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Published : 2010-04-06 11:00
Updated : 2010-04-06 11:00

The two Koreas` agreement released yesterday after smooth negotiations re-emphasized North Korea`s intention to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and to take "substantial measures" towards peaceful resolution through dialogue.
On a positive note, experts say the 12-point joint statement has significantly secured South Korea`s influence in the North`s nuclear standoff that has been mainly centered on North Korea and the United States. It is thus expected to raise the level of recently revived inter-Korean exchanges and create more favorable conditions to break through North Korea`s nuclear standoff, the analysts said.
To be more pessimistic, the experts say the agreement has failed to take any step further from the initial remarks made by North Korea leader Kim Jong-il who told visiting South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young a week ago that the North would return to the six-party talks when conditions are met.
As for the United States, the rapidly improving inter-Korean relations are likely to pose more questions on what North Korea`s motive is in approaching and broaching the subject of nuclear standoff with the South.
North Korea has long been maintaining a principle to separate the nuclear issue from inter-Korean relations until recently.
"The United States will be leveling between two possibilities that could explain the motive behind North Korea enthusiastically approaching the South (after over a year-long hiatus)," said professor Kim Sung-han of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.
One could be that the North may be attempting to provoke a strain in the tight alliance between South Korea and the United States by emphasizing the role of the two Koreas as one, Kim said.
"Another possibility could be that the North is trying to secure an environment to return to the six-party talks by using South Korea as a channel."
Professor Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses explained that the North may be seeking closer ties with the South as there is little hope of its demand for bilateral talks with Washington being fulfilled. "The North could be thinking that as the possibility of directly talking with the United States appear slim, it should use the South to gain what it needs and overcome the (nuclear) crisis through cooperation," Baek said.
As for South Korea, the critical job now is to how balance booming inter-Korean relations with luring North Korea back to the disarmament talks awaited also by the United States, China, Japan and Russia.
So far, the task appears to be tricky with the North remaining rigid over becoming more outspoken in its future steps.
The joint statement, read in turn by the two chief delegates of the Cabinet-level talks on Thursday evening, said, "The South and the North, under the ultimate goal toward the peninsula`s denuclearization, will take substantial measures to peacefully solve the nuclear problem through dialogue when the environment is created."
Experts said future attention will be focused on what the "substantial measures" would be, along with the "important proposal" that the South reportedly offered to the North before the Cabinet-level discussion this week in return for the six-party resumption.
"South Korea`s expectations for a quick breakthrough in the nuclear standoff rose significantly since the meeting between Kim Jong-il and Chung Dong-young," Prof. Kim Sung-han said.
He added although the joint statement lacks any details, the re-emphasis on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has a significant meaning.
Professor Baek Seung-joo said the successful four-day ministerial talks between the two Koreas in Seoul have so far raised the possibility of the six-nation talks resuming. It remains to be seen whether the two will manage to gain productive results in the end.
The United States also appears to be stepping up its move on the North`s nuclear issue with news reports that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may visit South Korea, China and Japan next month. It would be her second tour around the three key nations belonging to the disarmament talks in three months.

By Lee Joo-hee

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