Talk about talks, but little progress

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Talk about talks, but little progress

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi yesterday discussed ways to bring North Korea back to the six-party nuclear talks, but little concrete progress came out of the session in Beijing.

According to South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun, Yu and Yang agreed that the two countries should continue their cooperation to ensure ongoing diplomatic efforts toward the resumption of the stalled talks. Yu acknowledged China’s efforts as the chair nation of the talks and urged China to take an active role in persuading the North to return.

One accompanying South Korean official said China “didn’t put anything new on the table.” However, little had been expected: Prior to the meeting, South Korean officials said the ministerial would not lead to an immediate resumption of the stalled discussions.

Yu’s trip is latest in the series of diplomatic moves by South Korea, China, the United States, Russia and Japan to try to lure the North back to the negotiation table. Yu and Yang last met in Tokyo in January, on the sidelines of the Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation.

The last six-party session was held in December 2008. In May 2009, North Korea conducted a nuclear test that resulted in stiff financial and arms embargoes. To protest the sanctions, the North declared the six-party talks “dead” and vowed never to return. It has since softened its stance and indicated that it could return if some preconditions are met. The North has demanded the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council, as well as negotiations for a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

South Korea and the United States have maintained that there must be no preconditions for the North to come back to the talks. China, the closest thing to an ally for North Korea, could make less strict demands, South Korean officials have said.

“China is urging all involved parties to be more flexible in their stance so that we can all reach a common ground,” one high-ranking official said last week. “China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, feels responsibility for implementing sanctions. China also appears to be hoping for a U.S.-North Korea bilateral meeting” to provide a breakthrough.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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