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Koreas’ nuclear envoys to meet in China next week

Two sides to discuss restarting six-party talks on N.K. nukes


The chief nuclear envoys of the two Koreas will meet in Beijing next week, likely on Wednesday, in the second such meeting this year aimed at bridging differences on how to resume the stalled regional nuclear disarmament talks.

Wi Sung-lac of South Korea and Ri Yong-ho of North Korea will meet in the Chinese capital next week, a senior Seoul official said, adding the two sides were discussing details of the upcoming meeting.

“The two sides will be discussing a wide range of issues related to those addressed in the previous inter-Korean talks and the U.S.-North Korea talks in July,” the official said.

The chief nuclear negotiators of the two Koreas had met for the first time in more than two years on the side-lines of a regional security forum held in Indonesia in July.

Since the first round of talks between Wi and Ri, Seoul and Washington have engaged in preliminary discussions with Pyongyang to gauge the possibility of restarting the six-party talks.

The talks take place as partners of the six-nation denuclearization talks have been making efforts to persuade Pyongyang to take the necessary measures to resume the long-stalled negotiations.

The talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, have been stalled since the end of 2008 when North Korea left the negotiation table claiming other partners had failed to keep their side of the promise.

Pyongyang, suffering from deepening food shortages and international isolation since its nuclear tests and provocations against Seoul, has been making increasing efforts to rejoin the talks by appeasing Washington as well as its southern rival.

The aid-for-denuclearization dialogue had been one of main sources of income for the impoverished state which relies mostly on outside aid to feed its population of 24 million. Its traditional ally China fully backs an immediate resumption of the talks without any preconditions.

During a rare summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had promised to issue a moratorium on nuclear testing and missile launches, one of the main conditions partners have been demanding on the communist state.

Seoul and Washington have been skeptical about Kim’s pledge, claiming Pyongyang must take into action the promise and also address growing concerns about its uranium enrichment program that could serve as a second way of making nuclear bombs.

South Korea also remains sore over two deadly attacks North Korea conducted in March and November last year. The attacks together killed a total of 50 South Koreans, turning the Seoul government reluctant about doing the North anymore financial or diplomatic favors.

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