South, U.S. waiting on ‘nuke signal’ from North

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South, U.S. waiting on ‘nuke signal’ from North

Seoul and Washington are ready to resume dialogue that could lead to further six-party talks with North Korea if Pyongyang sends “the right signal,” according to top South Korean and American envoys Wednesday.

After a meeting in the United States with Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, and Lim Sung-nam, Seoul’s representative to the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing North Korea, told reporters that both agreed on the need for dialogue, without going into detail about what conditions might lead to its resumption.

Mark Toner, spokesman of the U.S. State Department, said on Wednesday that the United States is “looking for certain things from the North Koreans” and was “going to have to let them emerge” from the mourning period for Kim Jong-il “before we think we can move forward.”

Diplomatic efforts to resume the talks have been put on hold since Kim’s death, and North Korea observers are asking themselves how the new leadership under Kim Jong-un will approach the nuclear issue.

On Wednesday, the North’s Workers’ Party paper, Rodong Sinmun, said Kim Jong-il’s biggest legacy is turning the North into a nuclear state, and that Kim Jong-un would enrich the revolutionary legacy of his father.

Moon Chung-in, a professor of international relations at Yonsei University, said the yuhun, or rules of the predecessor, which Kim Jong-un is expected to adopt for several years to come as his father did after his grandfather’s death, are not absolute principles. Kim Jong-il’s military-first policy is an example of a yuhun rule.

The North could put nukes on the negotiation table to realize the goal to become both a “strong” and “prosperous” country next year, he said.

“Economic prosperity will be urgently needed for Kim Jong-un, and his regime might attempt to make substantive nuclear concessions,” the professor said.

“The question is how he would do it without undermining the source of its [the North’s] strength, its nuclear weapons program, and triggering resistance from hardliners in the North.”

The North was expected to accept preconditions Seoul and Washington tied to returning to denuclearization-for-aid talks, including suspending the uranium enrichment program, at a third round of bilateral talks with the U.S. last week. The talks did not occur, apparently due to Kim’s death.

Experts fear the uranium enrichment program, revealed in November 2010, could be used as a source of fuel for nuclear weapons, although the North says it is for peaceful, industrial purposes. In a report issued this week, Larry Niksch, an Asia expert at the U.S. Congressional Research Service, said that the North would be able to master miniaturizing and mounting a nuclear warhead atop its missiles in one or two years if it produces sufficient nuclear material through a uranium enrichment program.

Michael Green, a professor of international relations at Georgetown University, said in a forum organized by the East-West Center in the U.S. on Dec. 21 that the next provocation from the North would be a nuclear demonstration rather than a show of direct force against the South.


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

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