The Korea Herald


Seoul sees little progress at informal US-NK talks

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Oct. 23, 2016 - 16:58

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The US government remains unchanged on its commitment to retain pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program, Seoul officials said Sunday, downplaying speculations that Washington may resume dialogue with Pyongyang in light of a recent informal meeting.

Senior officials from the North‘s foreign ministry met with former US government officials in Kuala Lumpur on Friday and Saturday. The US side included former Robert Gallucci, who was the chief US negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis in 1994, and former special envoy for six-party talks Joseph DeTrani. 
Ex-US deputy nuclear negotiator Joseph DeTrani and Jang Il-hun, deputy chief of North Korea's mission to the UN. (Yonhap) Ex-US deputy nuclear negotiator Joseph DeTrani and Jang Il-hun, deputy chief of North Korea's mission to the UN. (Yonhap)
Leon Sigal, one of the participants and director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council, had said that the meetings have yielded some “progress.” He said that while no official dialogue is expected within the Barack Obama administration, the new administration needs to reconsider its policies with Pyongyang.

“The US says that the latest consultation is a ‘track 2’ meeting that doesn’t have anything to do with its government,” an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told local Yonhap News Agency. He stressed that the people who participated in the recent talks have long left the US government, and therefore have no relations with Washington’s current policies.

The official added that the general consensus in the US appears to be that now is not the time for talks, and that only through sanctions and pressure can the North change.

Seoul and Washington will retain its position to retain pressure on the North until it shows efforts to denuclearize, according to the official.

He added that the North sending government officials to an informal meeting may be a demonstration of its desperation from international isolation.

North Korea is currently under international sanctions led by the UN Security Council as punitive action against its nuclear test and long-range rocket launch earlier in the year. The UNSC resolution bans the communist state from conducting any nuclear or ballistic missile programs.

According to Sigal, the two parties had stuck to their initial stances on the North’s missile and nuclear programs, which was the main topic of discussion.

The US has maintained that the nuclear programs should be scrapped before anything happens, while the North is adamant that a peace treaty with the US should be signed first.

Pyongyang’s rhetoric regarding its nuclear and missile programs is widely assessed to be aimed toward the new US administration, which will take office next year.

The hermit kingdom has been stepping up efforts to complete its nuclear strike capacity, made apparent by yet another nuclear test in September and subsequent engine test that indicates its progress in rocket engine capacity.

Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said that the North may conduct another missile launch early next year to apply pressure on the new US leadership.

During last week’s meeting between the Seoul and Washington’s defense and foreign ministers, the allies have agreed on necessity to expand the sanctions on the North.

According to Defense Minister Han Min-koo, the allies will also review specific measures on implementation of the US extended deterrence against North Korean missiles. This will include permanent deployment of US strategic assets on a rotational basis to the Korean peninsula.

By Yoon Min-sik (