중앙데일리

Flows of aid to stop until crisis abates

South willing to meet North only on missiles, weapons

July 07,2006

A group of former South Korean agents trained for missions in North Korea demonstrated in front of the Central Government Complex in Seoul yesterday, with a mock North Korean missile bearing a slogan, “Our purpose is to threaten world peace.” [NEWSIS]

The Roh administration yesterday started edging toward a tougher stance on the North Korean missile tests, announcing that it will directly challenge the North about those tests at inter-Korean ministerial talks next week.
A senior government official said that Seoul would withhold promised aid to the North until the missile crisis is over. That decision did not include a delay in the provision of the last promised fertilizer shipment to North Korea, however; a ship left port yesterday bound for North Korea with the last 20,000 tons of that assistance.
Although the Unification Ministry said that it would not cancel the ministerial talks, which are to be held in Busan from Tuesday through Friday, that is no guarantee that they will actually be held. A former senior ministry official noted that Pyongyang could well boycott the talks themselves in a tit-for-tat response to Seoul’s rejection of working-level military talks it proposed two days before it launched seven missiles on Wednesday. In response to those launches, Korean conservatives have also publicly burned the North Korean flag, another sore point with Pyongyang.
”At the meeting, missiles and the six-party talks will be the core issues,” said Lee Gwan-se, policy promotion director of the ministry. “The administration seriously considered whether or not to attend the talks, and we decided that efforts toward dialogue must continue, to resolve the current situation promoted by the North’s missile launches.”
A senior Seoul official, speaking anonymously, told journalists after the announcement that the administration was especially concerned about the test-launch of short-range Scud missiles among Pyongyang’s salvo. They are a danger to South Korea, he said, and the South must confront the North over them.
He said an additional 100,000 tons of fertilizer and 500,000 tons of rice would not be sent to the North. “We made public what we want to address at this meeting so that the North will hear it,” he said. Echoing the former official’s comments, he added, “It is difficult to say whether the North will actually come.”
If they do, Seoul’s delegation will be led by Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok.
Colonel Moon Sung-mook, a planner at the Defense Ministry, said yesterday that the North Korean military made the proposal for a working-level meeting through a phone message on Monday, proposing to meet Thursday at Panmunjom. Colonel Moon said the ministry complained strongly about the missile tests in rejecting that proposal. Asked why the news of the meeting offer had been withheld, he said it has been customary to announce talks only after a firm date has been held.
Separately, sources said yesterday that General B.B. Bell, the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, complained to Korean military officials about what he called a lack of urgency among “some” South Koreans in regard to the missile tests.
While Seoul was pondering how to respond to the missile launches, Pyongyang warned against retaliatory sanctions. Kyodo News Agency reported yesterday that Song Il-ho, the North’s representative for normalization talks with Japan, demanded that Japanese sanctions imposed after the missile tests be lifted.
He threatened unspecified “physical actions” if Japan did not comply.


by Ser Myo-ja, Brian Lee


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