Visit brings little progress
If a visit by Wu Dawei was to obtain a nod from Seoul to immediately jump-start the stalled six-party talks, he would likely leave empty-handed today.
The top Chinese nuclear envoy and a Chinese entourage arrived in South Korea on Thursday on a three-day schedule and met South Korean counterpart Wi Sung-lac later that day.
In the meeting with Wi, Wu Dawei sought cooperation on the resumption of talks for dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but according to Foreign Ministry officials yesterday, South Korea and China noted the gap between them on the issue.
The officials said Seoul and Beijing agreed only in principle that the two parties will work together to “restore the dialogue,” but still differ on the timing and methodology regarding reopening the six-way negotiations.
The officials said Wi told the Chinese that creating the right circumstances for resumption of the six-party talks, such as that North Korea shows willingness to denuclearize, is more important than starting the talks right away.
The six-party talks, which also involve the U.S., Japan, Russia and North Korea, remain ruptured since the North withdrew from them in April of last year.
South Korea and the U.S. hope to pick up where they left off but only when the North shows sincerity. The North has been suspected of using the talks to get international assistance, while searching for a way to get around the commitment required of it.
The North is reported to have agreed with China to return to the six-party talks when Wu visited the North last week. Seoul and Washington suspect it is a move to deflect attention from the Cheonan incident, over which South Korea demands an apology.
In March, 46 sailors of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan were killed in the sinking. Seoul blames it on Pyongyang; Pyongyang denies it.
“The Chinese side wanted to turn the page on the Cheonan incident, but we said we won’t,” said a high-ranking official of the ministry in a meeting with reporters.
As to the timing for the six-party talks to be resumed, another high-ranking government official said, “There were no concrete talks on the timing, but we don’t think it will come soon.”
“Imminent change appears unlikely,” he said.
Wu met Shin Kak-soo, acting foreign minister, today. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan is on leave and Wu leaves for Japan today.
By Moon Gwang-lip [firstname.lastname@example.org]