The divided Koreas held the meeting on Monday at the recently launched joint liaison office in the North’s border town Kaesong. They agreed to work together to combat pine-tree pests between now and March, with the South providing the necessary chemicals, and to modernize a number of North Korean tree nurseries within this year.
“Inter-Korean talks for cooperation in forestry took place at the North-South joint liaison office on Monday under the agreement at inter-Korean high-level talks for implementing the historic ‘September Pyongyang Joint Declaration’,” the Korean Central News Agency said in English.
|Kim Song-jun, a senior official with the North Korea’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, left, shakes hands with Park Chong-ho, deputy chief of the Korea Forest Service at a meeting held in the South-North joint liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea on Monday. (Yonhap)|
“At the talks both sides discussed the practical issues and step-by-step measures for promoting inter-Korean cooperation in forestry and adopted a joint press release.”
The brief report, however, left out several details of Monday’s talks, as well as the results, which -- coupled with icy remarks by North Korea’s top delegate -- further fueled speculation that the North was dissatisfied with the outcome.
At the wrap-up of the meeting, North Korea’s top delegate, Kim Song-jun, complained that the meeting had failed “to meet the expectations of the people.”
“If these talks go just as they went today down the road, we will not harbor any expectations,” said Kim, who is also a senior official with the North Korea’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. He added that if the two sides were to expect progress from such talks in the future, the two Koreas must cooperate against “external and adverse” forces.
Park Chong-ho, Kim’s South Korean counterpart and deputy chief of the Korea Forest Service, did not provide details when asked about the North’s complaints, but said there were “some issues that require further discussions,” hinting that layers of sanctions against the communist regime placed limitations on the cross-border projects.
Kim’s remarks echo what his country has been saying in recent months, having called upon the South to “act independently” regarding inter-Korean issues and pursue joint economic projects free from any influence from the US and its maximum-pressure campaign.
However, with the South cautious of overstepping its boundaries, observers speculate that the outcome of Monday’s talks did not meet North Korea’s expectations and that Pyongyang had failed to realize all its objectives.
The North is known to often report events a day after they take place, omitting key details for propaganda or diplomatic purposes.
With about 30 percent of the North’s entire woodlands believed to be barren, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been making efforts to restore the environment since coming to power in late 2011.
In October, the Koreas are also scheduled to have talks on curbing the spread of communicable diseases. They will also hold sports talks with the goals of fielding a joint team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and co-hosting the 2032 Summer Olympics.
By Jung Min-kyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)