Signs of restart to 6-party talks

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Signs of restart to 6-party talks

Top envoys from both South and North Korea were in Beijing last week, signaling that the six-party talks on the nuclear disarmament of North Korea may be revived after a hiatus of almost six years.

Cho Tae-yong, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei Friday and confirmed Beijing was on the same page as Seoul regarding denuclearizing North Korea. They also discussed the upcoming Park Guen-hye and Xi Jinping summit. Cho is the chief representative to the six-party talks, which also include the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

“We confirmed a consensus [with Beijing] on the denuclearization of North Korea,” Cho told reporters upon returning to Seoul on Saturday, “And that we cannot recognize North Korea as a nuclear state.”

Meanwhile, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan returned to his home in Pyongyang Saturday after a four-day visit to Beijing.

Kim met with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui Wednesday and emphasized that North Korea hopes that tensions on the Korean Peninsula will ease and that it is open to dialogue.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that Kim told Zhang that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “was the dying wish” of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong-il.

Kim said that North Korea is “willing to have dialogue with all sides and attend any kind of meeting, including six-party talks.”

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday that Kim met with Yang Jiechi, a state councilor of China and former foreign minister, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday.

Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said Saturday, “China hopes that the related nations head toward the same target, and if possible, conditions in which six-party talks may resume may be met.”

Cho’s first trip to Beijing as South Korea’s envoy to the six-party talks followed trilateral talks among Seoul, Tokyo and Washington in the U.S. on Wednesday.

Glyn Davies, U.S. special envoy for North Korean affairs, Shinsuke Sugiyama, Japan’s director general for Asian and Oceanic affairs, and Cho agreed to toughen demands on North Korea to denuclearize.

But the United States has rejected North Korea’s proposal of dialogue unless Pyongyang takes some concrete steps to denuclearize, and President Barack Obama renewed sanctions against North Korea for another year in a notice to the U.S. Congress on Friday, according to the White House.

North Korean envoy to the United Nations Sin Son-ho in a rare UN press conference Friday urged an end to economic sanctions and urged nations not to “blindly follow” the United States’ lead. He said that North Korea is open to talks and “denuclearization is our final destination.” But “denuclearization should not be unilateral,” he said.

The last round of six-party talks was held in September 2007. North Korea officially abandoned the process in April 2009 saying it would “never again take part” in them.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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