Back To Top
National

Regional powers up efforts for N.K. talks

N.K. diplomat heads to China, Seoul’s foreign minister to leave for Russia


A flurry of diplomatic efforts have been continuing among regional powers this week, as North Korea shows signs of taking necessary steps toward revival of the stalled multinational nuclear disarmament talks it had walked from more than two years ago.

First holding nuclear talks with its rival South Korea on the sidelines of a regional security forum late last month, the communist North sent its diplomat to the U.S. for more talks on the condition of resuming the six-nation dialogue.

The North Korean diplomat left New York and headed to Beijing for talks with the traditional ally, while the South Korean foreign minister is scheduled to meet with his Russian counterpart in Moscow later this week.

Although all sides have been cautious not to express optimism toward immediate resumption of the denuclearization dialogue, results of the scheduled bilateral consultations are expected to help them bridge previous differences on how best to resolve the years-long stalemate. The six-nation nuclear talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan have been suspended since the last session on December 2008.

Ending rare talks with officials in the U.S. on Tuesday, Pyongyang’s vice foreign minister said “dialogue will continue down the road.”

“I am satisfied with talks this time,” Kim Kye-gwan told reporters before his departure to Beijing, adding more bilateral meetings are needed before multilateral negotiations can resume.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington or between the two Koreas bring benefit to neither side, the North Korean diplomat said, hinting at his country’s willingness to take necessary steps.

For the current process to move forward, Pyongyang is asked to put into action its commitment under a 2005 agreement to abandon all nuclear weapons and allow the return of outside inspectors to its land. Washington also wants the North to halt its ongoing uranium enrichment activities.

Should North Korea agree to commit to these processes, it would be able to stabilize relations with the U.S. as well as other regional powers, secure food aid and energy assistance, as well as pledge from Washington that its troops won’t attack Pyongyang. North Korea is also being pressured by Washington to do what it can in mending ties with Seoul, which have fallen to the worst level in decades after Pyongyang conducted two deadly attacks against a warship and an island in the South last year.

Without outwardly admitting so, South Korea has been softening its position toward the issue in recent weeks to keep the initiative as North Korea and the U.S. thaw the ice. The issue could be solved if Pyongyang “makes a minimum gesture” to appease the South Korean public, observers say.

As the North Korean delegation headed to Beijing apparently to share the results of the talks with Washington officials, the Chinese foreign ministry released a statement calling for an early resumption of the six-party talks.

Early resumption of the talks “will bring benefit to all sides,” China said in the statement. “We hope to see all partners join in the effort to create necessary conditions for immediate resumption of the talks.”

Stressing the recent talks with Pyongyang was a mere “preliminary meeting,” Washington has said it will consult with other members of the six-party talks before moving forward on the issue.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the current mood positive during a meeting with South Korean reporters in New York.

“What is important is that there was contact,” the former South Korean foreign minister said. “The back-to-back talks will make positive contributions … in building up trust among concerned parties in the six-way talks.”

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan is scheduled to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on North Korea and other pending issues Monday, according to the Foreign Ministry here.

Traveling to Moscow for a four-day trip on Saturday, Kim plans to discuss North Korea’s nuclear programs and how best to restart the six-party talks with the Russian minister as well as other experts and officials on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry said. It will be Kim’s first trip to Russia since taking office in October, last year.

The ministerial talks will provide “a chance to discuss various issues including Russia’s role in the North Korean nuclear issue,” a spokesman of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry told an earlier press briefing.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR