North’s envoy in U.S. says ‘now time to reconcile’

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North’s envoy in U.S. says ‘now time to reconcile’

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Kim Kye-gwan, first vice foreign minister of North Korea, is swarmed by members of the media after arriving at Kennedy International Airport in New York on Tuesday. [AP/YONHAP]


North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan, expressed optimism about long-stalled progress in Washington-Pyongyang relations as he arrived in New York Tuesday for the first bilateral nuclear talks in 19 months.

“I believe North Korea-U.S. relations will improve as now is the time for all countries to reconcile,” Kim told a group of waiting reporters as he arrived at 3 p.m. Tuesday at Kennedy International Airport. Kim said he also had bright prospects for the six-party talks.

Kim’s visit, following rare inter-Korean contact on denuclearization at the Asean Regional Forum last week, has raised hope that the six-party talks on the North’s denuclearization, virtually the only international negotiation framework available to draw the North’s nuclear disarmament, could be resumed soon.

Suspended with the North’s withdrawal in April 2009, the six-party talks involve the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia. The North walked out of the talks citing international pressure on its missile tests.

The North Korean delegation led by Kim is expected to meet the U.S. delegation comprised of Stephen Bosworth, Washington’s special envoy on North Korea policy, Clifford Hart, Washington’s new six-party talks envoy, and human rights envoy Robert King today or Friday.

Ri Gun, the director general of the North American affairs bureau of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, or Choe Son-hui, deputy chief of the bureau, was speculated to have accompanied Kim during the visit to the U.S. but neither was confirmed to have arrived at the airport.

Asked about the possible outcome of the meetings with U.S. officials, Kim declined to answer, saying that he would talk about it later.

The North, seeking external aid to resolve its food crisis and help prepare for the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung next year, has signaled a return to the six-party talks since early this year.

Pyongyang also made a fresh call yesterday for a peace treaty with the U.S., saying it is essential to resume the six-party talks. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency claimed Wednesday that a peace treaty would help talk Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear ambition.

Yesterday marked the 58th anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a cease-fire. The two Koreas are technically still at war.

The U.S. State Department is cautioning against optimism about Kim’s visit, defining the talks with Kim as “exploratory” and “preliminary” to see the North’s sincerity.

Some observers speculate the food crisis in the North is worsening given the North’s sudden change in stance toward the South.

For weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s visit to China in May, the North dropped the conciliatory gestures it had made earlier this year toward the South and then threatened not to talk with the hard-line Lee Myung-bak administration.


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


한글 관련 기사 [CBS노컷]

미국 온 김계관 "지금은 화해할 때다"

북한의 김계관 외무성 부상이오늘 4년만에 뉴욕을 방문해6자회담과 북미관계 전망을 낙관했습니다.

뉴욕에서 이기범 특파원의 보돕니다.

지금은 모든 나라가 화해할 때다.

4년만에 미국을 방문한북한의 김계관 외무성 부상이오늘 뉴욕 케네디 공항에 도착하자마자 한 말입니다.

김 부상은 오는 28일스티븐 보즈워스 대북정책 특별대표와 만나6자회담 재개방안과북미관계 개선문제를 논의할 예정입니다.

김 부상은회담전망을 묻는 질문에낙관한다고 밝혔습니다.

그러나 김 부상은구체적인 회담 전망에 대해서는그 때 가봐서 대답하겠다고 밝혔습니다.

김 부상은유엔주재 북한대표부가 준비한 검은색 차량을 이용해공항을 빠져 나갔습니다.

김 부상은 다음달 1일전미외교협의회 등 민간단체의 한반도 전문가들과도 만나입장을 개진할 예정입니다.

김 부상이 언제까지 미국에 머물지는 아직 정해지지않았습니다.

시간에 구애받지 않고미국정부와 협상을 벌이겠다는 북한의 의지가 엿보이는 대목입니다.

미국정부도이번 회동을 예비접촉이라고 치부하면서도북미관계 개선문제까지 다룰 수 있다며적극적인 입장입니다.

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