2 UN envoys to visit North to begin talks

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2 UN envoys to visit North to begin talks

NEW YORK - Two United Nations special envoys will make a visit to North Korea this month to discuss restoring stalled dialogue between the UN and North Korea, according to a senior-ranking UN official yesterday.

Kim Won-soo, a special advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, told the JoongAng Ilbo that Lynn Pascoe, under secretary general for UN political affairs, and himself will visit the North from Feb. 9 to 12.

The official added that the delegation visit aims to resume high-level talks that have been stalled since 2005 after UN envoy to North Korea Maurice Strong, under then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, stepped down during a controversy over his ties to the Oil-for-Food Program.

Kim said, “the UN delegation will meet high-raking North Korean officials and discuss various issues concerning mostly humanitarian aid projects for the North.”

However, he added that “there’s a likelihood that the North Korea nuclear program will also be brought to the table.”

The delegation is scheduled to visit South Korea, China and Japan before entering the North, according to Kim. The UN approached the North and suggested the visit early last year. At the time, the offer was turned down by the North.

Observers are now paying close attention to whether Ban will visit Pyongyang if both sides successfully agree to restore dialogue channel between high-ranking officials of North Korea and the United Nations.

But Kim told the JoongAng Ilbo that “there are no plans for Ban to visit North Korea at this point and there will be no discussions about Ban’s visit during the delegation’s visit.”

Observers also suggested that the only active dialogue channel is over issues concerning humanitarian aid. They suggested the delegation’s visit would restore political and economic dialogue with the North.

Because the North has been demanding that the UN Security Council lift sanctions against its regime as a precondition of returning to six-party talks, observers say it’s highly likely that the North will bring up the subject in the meeting with the delegation next week.

Meanwhile, tensions on the Korean Peninsula calmed after the North Korean government on Saturday sent a fax message to the South Korean government containing a list of five senior government officials who will attend the working-level talks related to the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

“No more sound of firing has been heard ever since the North Korean Navy fired artillery shells on the northern side of Yeonpyeong Island [on the peninsula’s west coast] at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday,” said an official for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The telefax message was sent to the South just a day after North Korea fired artillery shells near the Northern Limit Line for four days.

Talks on the industrial complex will begin today. Seoul plans to talk with Pyongyang about communications, travel to and from the complex and customs issues.

The divided states will also discuss establishing dormitories suggested by the North that can accommodate North Koreans working at the complex.

By Jung Kyung-min, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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