• Tuesday, August 11, 2020

South Korean President Open to Talks With North

Discussion in 'World Affairs' started by DesiGuy, Dec 30, 2010.

  1. DesiGuy


    Jul 27, 2009
    +1 / 2,329 / -4
    United States
    United States
    SEOUL, South Korea — In an unexpected diplomatic overture that could lead to the resumption of negotiations with North Korea, the president of South Korea said Wednesday that he would endorse restarting the six-nation talks aimed at dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons program.

    After months of tensions in which the two Koreas exchanged artillery fire and increasingly bellicose threats that seemed to push the peninsula to the brink of war, President Lee Myung-bak said that his government favored multilateral talks in 2011 “to terminate the North Korean nuclear program,” preferably by 2012.

    The impoverished North has vowed to become “a strong and prosperous country” by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder. To South Korean politicians and foreign leaders, the North’s remarks about this promised transformation are vague, improbable and worrisome.

    The participants in the six-nation talks are the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia. Hosted in the past by Beijing, the talks broke down in April 2009 when the North withdrew from the process and ejected inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

    Mr. Lee’s remarks came before a presentation by the Foreign Ministry about its goals for next year. The Unification Ministry and Defense Ministry also reported to Mr. Lee on Wednesday, during private sessions at the Blue House, the presidential office here.

    An artillery exchange between the Koreas on Nov. 23 raised tensions on the peninsula to their highest level since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Shelling by the North killed two marines and two civilians on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, eight miles off the North Korean coast in disputed waters of the Yellow Sea.

    Many South Koreans feared an outbreak of war, and a nationwide civil defense drill was conducted.

    Since the attack, South Korea has also held a series of military exercises, including joint maneuvers with a United States naval force. Tensions eased when the North shrugged off the South’s live-fire artillery exercise on Yeonpyeong on Dec. 20.

    Contributing to the frayed relations was North Korea’s revelation of a new and sophisticated uranium-enrichment plant that North Korean nuclear officials said was operational. They also showed visiting American scientists a light-water reactor still under construction.

    Against this fractious backdrop, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a former American ambassador to the United Nations, made an unofficial visit to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, to try to defuse the inter-Korean tensions.

    North Korean officials told him that they would sell 12,000 plutonium rods to South Korea as a gesture of good faith and that they would admit United Nations monitors to the main Yongbyon nuclear complex.

    It was unclear whether those offers might have prompted Mr. Lee’s overture on Wednesday.

    But a senior administration official in Seoul tempered any expectations for an imminent breakthrough, saying, “North Korea has never been sincere in opening up its nuclear program to the rest of the world, including the six-party members.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on nuclear issues.

    If there was a tone of conciliation in Mr. Lee’s comments about new nuclear talks, there also was some tough talk on Wednesday about the government’s more muscular military stance toward North Korea.

    The Defense Ministry, in a biennial white paper scheduled to be released Thursday, will officially refer to the North Korean government and military as “an enemy,” officials said. That characterization is stronger than the previous description of the North as a “direct and serious threat.”

    It remains to be seen how the United States and Japan will respond to Mr. Lee’s comments about new multilateral discussions.

    Officials at the Blue House emphasized Wednesday that the Lee administration had always seen the six-nation talks as the appropriate mechanism for closing down the North’s nuclear programs.

    In recent months, the North, China and Russia have called for a resumption of the talks.

    But the conservative Lee administration has insisted that the North Koreans change their attitude before it will consider new talks. “Concrete actions” and “sincere behavior” were phrases used by South Korean and American diplomats.

  2. below_freezing

    below_freezing ELITE MEMBER

    Feb 26, 2010
    +0 / 6,026 / -0
    This event is completely unrelated to China's revealment of the J-20.