Envoy rallying support around resumption of six-party talks

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Envoy rallying support around resumption of six-party talks

South Korea has proactively been engaging in shuttle diplomacy between the United States and China as momentum picks up for the possible resumption of six-party talks, which seeks a peaceful resolution to the denuclearization of North Korea.

This follows a meeting on Monday by chief envoys from the United States, South Korea and Japan.

The six-party talks has consisted of a series of high-level meetings among the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia. The last meeting among all the group’s members took place in Beijing in 2008, when North Korea walked out of the gathering.

Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea’s new envoy for the discussion, heads to Beijing today for two days, where he will speak with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei and other Chinese officials on the possibility of reviving the six-way dialogue, particularly in light of North Korea’s recent military provocations.

“The two sides will exchange views on the threat of a North Korean nuclear test and the recent situation in the Korean Peninsula,” Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters yesterday.

Hwang, special representative for peace and security affairs on the Korean Peninsula, is also expected to use his talks with the U.S. and Japanese envoys as a basis, possibly requesting China to step up its leverage over Pyongyang.

Wu, special representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, last month made a four-day trip to Pyongyang, and is expected to head to Washington later this month, according to diplomatic sources, leading to speculation that the six-party talks are picking up pace again.

Separately, the Blue House spokesman announced that Kim Kyou-hyun, the president’s deputy national security adviser, had departed yesterday for a four-day trip to Washington to meet with key U.S. government officials, including National Security Council (NSC) officials.

In a visit through Saturday, Kim is expected to meet with Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, his U.S. counterpart, and discuss security issues on the agenda for the upcoming meeting in Seoul between President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Other issues Kim may address with U.S. government officials and security experts include concerns over a fourth nuclear test by North Korea and the discovery of crashed North Korean drones in South Korea.

Obama’s tour of Asia, which includes a two-day visit to Korea later this month, follows a trilateral summit with Park and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on March 25 in The Hague, where the denuclearization of North Korea was a key topic and the three agreed on an imminent revival of the long-stalled talks.

The summit among the three leaders segued into a meeting with the three nations’ six-party talks envoys on Monday, where the United States, Japan and South Korea jointly warned Pyongyang against further provocations, emphasizing it would “pay a price” in the case of another nuclear test.

However, the nuclear envoys also indicated more flexibility when dealing with North Korea, though Washington has previously emphasized that North Korea has to take concrete steps toward denuclearization for talks to resume. China’s mediating role will play an important factor in such a scenario.

In Seoul, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se held an hourlong phone conversation Wednesday night with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, explaining the talks among the six-party envoys from Korea, the United States and Japan.

The two ministers agreed to curb any escalation of tensions and further provocations from the North, the Korean Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Yun said in a speech yesterday at a Saenuri Party think tank forum that China and the international community were united “in the principle of not tolerating North Korea’s nuclear weapons,” stating a fourth nuclear test would result in “an unimaginable price.”

Yun also said that the involved parties are considering “five-party talks, including China and Russia,” as well as other platforms of discussion on the denuclearization of North Korea.

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

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