North cold shoulders South at New York forum

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North cold shoulders South at New York forum

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NEW YORK - Despite expectations of a thaw between North and South Korea in wintery New York City, Seoul’s representative at an academic forum was cold shouldered by his counterpart from Pyongyang, according to a source.

Lim Sung-nam, Seoul’s representative to the six-party talks on the North’s denuclearization and Ri Yong-ho, the North’s, both attended a forum on the Korean Peninsula co-hosted by Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation between Wednesday and Friday.

The two diplomats stayed at the same Millennium UN Plaza Hotel, so expectations were high for contact between them. The forum was held in the hotel. Lim tried to make contact with Ri, but Ri gave a chilly reaction, the source said. The North’s tactic of trying to deal directly with the United States and exclude the South appeared to be playing out, the source said.

During the forum, Ri suggested a formula for resolving the North’s nuclear issue in which progress could be made after improvement in relations with the U.S. The six-party talks have been stalled since the North’s withdrawal in April 2009. But last month, the North and the U.S. brightened the prospect for its resumption by agreeing to a substantial deal.

Under the agreement announced Feb. 29, the two agreed to trade 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food assistance for the North’s tentative suspension of uranium enrichment at its Yongbyon facility and cooperation with international nuclear inspectors. The U.S. and South Korea have made improved relations between the two Koreas a condition for resuming the six-party talks.

The two sides have yet to get over two deadly attacks on the South in 2010. The North has criticized the South for its reaction to the death of leader Kim Jong-il last December.

“For the resumption of the six-party talks, North Korea should properly implement the Feb. 29 North-U.S. agreement,” Lim said at the forum. “Above all, the North Korean authorities need to accept a call for inter-Korean dialogue.”

Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state, also attended the forum.


By Jung Kyung-min, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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