North’s envoy off to U.S. for talks

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North’s envoy off to U.S. for talks

North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan, left for the U.S. yesterday for denuclearization talks with the U.S., according to diplomatic sources, amid growing optimism that the long-delayed six-party talks on nuclear disarmament of the North would restart.

Kim departed Pyongyang on North Korea’s Air Koryo plane, arrived in Beijing at 10 a.m. local time and transferred to an Air China flight leaving for New York at 1 p.m. that day, the sources said.

Ri Gun, the director general of the North American affairs bureau of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, was seen among the North Korean delegation accompanying Kim, they said.

Kim’s visit to the U.S. for the first Pyongyang-Washington contact on nuclear issues since December 2009 follows the first inter-Korean meeting of nuclear envoys in almost three years at the Asean Regional Forum in Bali, Indonesia, last Friday.

Seoul and Washington have shared views that the six-party talks could resume after North-South talks and Pyongyang-Washington talks. The six-party talks, suspended in April 2009, also involve Japan, China and Russia. Kim, until recently, had served as the North’s chief negotiator to the multinational talks.

The U.S. State Department stressed, however, the talks between the U.S. and North Korea would not simply be a formality to pass.

“We see this as a preliminary session where we’re going to lay out very clearly our expectations for what will be necessary to not only resume six-party talks, but to improve direct engagement between the U.S. and the DPRK,” said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman of the U.S. State Department, referring to the official name of the North.

Nuland said the U.S. decided to invite Kim after the North-South meeting in Bali and it was to know “what the North Koreans would say to us.”

“We are particularly interested in hearing them reaffirm that they are prepared to meet their international obligations and that they are prepared to take concrete and irreversible steps toward denuclearization,” she said. The North pledged denuclearization in the 2005 Joint Statement in return for aid during the fourth round of the six-party talks, before conducting nuclear tests twice in the following years.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry also downplayed the significance of Kim’s scheduled meeting with U.S. officials as “one of the meetings in the process” of resuming the six-party talks.

“Only after seeing how the talks (between the U.S. and North Korea) would proceed over substantial matters could we make a judgment on whether to go to the six-party talks or not,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae told a media briefing yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has decided to push forward with Pyongyang-Tokyo talks before resuming the six-party talks, according to Yomiuri Shimbun yesterday.

The newspaper reported that the Japanese government is afraid of being left out of the building of momentum for the restart of the six-party talks and specifically want to check North Korea’s attitude on the long-standing bilateral issue of abducted Japanese in the North.

Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said at the foreign ministers’ meeting of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan in Bali last week that he supports progress being made in inter-Korean dialogues, the U.S.-North Korea talks, the Japan-North Korea talks and then potentially the six-party talks.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
김계관, 시종 여유있는 표정으로 美입국

26일 미국에 입국한 김계관 북한 외무성 제1부상은 최근의 남북간, 북미간 대회재개에서 자신감을 얻은 듯 여유있는 표정이었다.

베이징(北京)을 출발한 에어차이나(CA) 981편이 다소 지연돼 예정보다 40분 가량 늦은 오후 3시에 뉴욕 JFK 공항에 착륙했지만 김 부상은 피곤한 기색 없이 얼굴에 미소를 띤 채 몰려든 기자들의 질문에 답했다.

김 부상은 특히 북미관계나 6자회담 전망을 묻는 질문에는 "낙관한다"며 분명한 어조로 답했고 "지금은 모두가 화해애야 하는 때가 아니냐"며 대화 분위기가 조성되고 있음을 확인했다.

공항 입국장에는 한국 특파원들과 일본 특파원, 현지 언론 기자 등 수십명이 몰려들어 카메라와 마이크를 들이대며 질문을 쏟아 부었지만 김 부상은 불쾌한 기색 없이 대답할 수 있는 부분은 차분하게 답했다.


다만 구체적인 성과 전망 등에 대해서는 "나중에 얘가하자"며 즉답을 피했다.

취재진이 김 부상을 둘러싸고 질문을 계속 퍼붓는 바람에 꼼짝 못하게 되는 상황이 발생했는데도 김 부상은 손을 내젓거나 화를 내지 않은 채 그저 웃으며 길이 트일 때까지 기다렸다.

공항 경비원들은 취재진이 너무 몰리자 김 부상이 공항 밖으로 나갈 수 있도록 기자들의 질문이나 사진촬영을 제지하며 길을 터주기도 했다.

이날 뉴욕을 방문하는 북한 대표단에는 리근 외무성 미국국(局) 국장과 북한 측 6자회담 차석대표를 맡고 있는 최선희 부국장 등이 포함될 것으로 알려졌으나 공항 입국 현장에서는 확인되지 않았다.

북한 대표단은 오는 28일과 29일 스티븐 보즈워스 미국 대북정책 특별대표와 클리포드 하트 6자회담 특사, 로버트 킹 북한인권특사 등으로 구성된 미국 대표단과 북미 고위급 회담을 가질 것으로 전망된다.

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