Seoul Eyes Prospects for New Multinational Talks with North Korea

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 20, 2013, 8:02 a.m.

Re­cent im­prove­ments in inter-Korean ties have led to op­tim­ism in Seoul about pro­spects for re­sum­ing long-para­lyzed re­gion­al ne­go­ti­ations over North Korean de­nuc­lear­iz­a­tion, the Yon­hap News Agency re­por­ted on Tues­day, cit­ing an an­onym­ous gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial.

The two Koreas last week fi­nally struck a deal on re­sum­ing joint eco­nom­ic activ­it­ies at the Kaesong busi­ness com­plex, which had been shuttered since the spring.

“Re­cent pro­gress in inter-Korean re­la­tions could have a pos­it­ive im­pact on the en­vir­on­ment for re­sum­ing the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuc­le­ar pro­grams,” said the of­fi­cial, who closely fol­lows the is­sue. 

The six-na­tion ne­go­ti­ations in­clude China, Ja­pan, North and South Korea, Rus­sia and the United States. The talks fo­cus on re­ward­ing North Korea’s gradu­al aban­don­ment of its nuc­le­ar-weapons pro­grams with phased con­ces­sions on for­eign-eco­nom­ic as­sist­ance and in­ter­na­tion­al-se­cur­ity pledges. The last round of talks took place in late 2008.

In­ter­na­tion­al isol­a­tion and heightened sanc­tions im­posed as pun­ish­ment for the North’s bal­list­ic-mis­sile launches and atom­ic tests may be tak­ing a toll on Py­ongy­ang, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial.

Mean­while, Chinese and South Korean aca­dem­ics and one­time gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials on Tues­day took part in a con­fer­ence that fo­cused on im­prov­ing bi­lat­er­al col­lab­or­a­tion around ef­forts to per­suade the North to cease its nuc­le­ar weapons de­vel­op­ment and re­turn to ne­go­ti­ations, Yon­hap sep­ar­ately re­por­ted.

China is North Korea’s prin­cip­al eco­nom­ic be­ne­fact­or and thus is viewed as hav­ing the most sway over Py­ongy­ang. In the past, Beijing has been seen as overly cau­tious in ex­er­cising its in­flu­ence. However, North Korea’s re­cent nuc­le­ar and mis­sile tri­als are un­der­stood to have prod­ded China in­to tak­ing a stern­er po­s­i­tion with its long­time ally.

Sep­ar­ately, South Korean Pres­id­ent Park Geun-hye on Monday told a meet­ing of her Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil that it was cru­cial that the South main­tain mil­it­ary read­i­ness to re­spond to North Korea, the Korea Her­ald re­por­ted.

“It is ut­terly im­port­ant to main­tain a firm se­cur­ity pos­ture in all cir­cum­stances,” she said. “As the say­ing goes, even if the whole coun­try ap­pears to be calm, if one for­gets war, crisis is bound to vis­it.”

Park dir­ec­ted that a gov­ern­ment as­sess­ment be car­ried out to en­sure that South Korean cit­ies re­main pre­pared to re­spond to a po­ten­tial chem­ic­al or bio­lo­gic­al at­tack.

South Korea and the United States are hold­ing an­oth­er in a series of routine joint armed-forces man­euvers. Though North Korea has typ­ic­ally con­demned such ex­er­cises and threatened strong re­tali­ation, this time Py­ongy­ang has not re­acted in such a bom­bast­ic way, ac­cord­ing to the Her­ald.

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