Multinational talks gainThe Blue House said that President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. President George W. Bush spoke by telephone at 9:30 p.m. yesterday for about 15 minutes. Blue House spokeswoman Song Kyoung-hee said Mr. Bush thanked the president for his support on Iraq, repeated his support for a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and again extended an invitation to visit Washington. She gave no other substantive details of the conversation.
Earlier yesterday, officials here and in Washington said South Korea and the United States are making progress in defining a multilateral approach to North Korea’s nuclear program. The two countries’ foreign ministers will meet in Washington later this month to continue the consultations.
Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan will meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on March 27, and hope to be able to agree on a forum in which to address those concerns with Pyeongyang. That approach also demands coordination with other governments, including China, Japan and probably Russia, who have interests at stake.
Speaking at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said there are discussions on the “specific modalities” of a multinational approach to North Korea. Seoul officials said there have been many discussions with other countries on the approach; they are testing several ideas, one official said, to find an approach that would be acceptable to both North Korea and the United States. Pyeongyang knows those ideas, the official said, through countries that have diplomatic relations with the North. An important part of the effort is to listen to what North Korea’s concerns are, he added.
In parallel, efforts are under way to restrain the North from further escalation of tensions. Some reports have said that chemicals needed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel has arrived at the North’s Yeongbyeon nuclear reactor site, but neither Seoul nor Washington would confirm them. Mr. Kelly said in Washington that Pyeongyang understands well that taking such a step would be a serious matter.
by Kim Young-sae