Seoul to discuss six-party issues in Washington

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Seoul to discuss six-party issues in Washington

The top envoys of South Korea and the United States to the six-party talks that discuss North Korea are scheduled to hold talks in Washington Monday to discuss conditions needed to restart the negotiations.

Hwang Joon-kook, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, is scheduled to meet Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy and may discuss holding three-way talks among Seoul, Washington and Beijing. They will also discuss North Korea and Japan’s recent agreement to open a reinvestigation of Japanese abducted by North Korea.

“South Korea, the U.S. and China are negotiating what the right conditions are to restart the six-party talks,” Hwang told reporters in the airport upon arriving in Washington for the talks with Davies, which is a follow up to last week’s South Korea-China foreign ministers’ meeting in Seoul. Hwang was last in Washington in early April.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in his visit to Seoul last Thursday described to Korean counterpart Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se the need to actively push for a resumption of the six-party talks, particularly with a visit by President Xi Jinping to Seoul, which is expected as early as later this month.

Hwang said he plans “to hold an in-depth discussion with the U.S.” on the issue.

“Because the South Korea-China summit is a very important diplomatic event, we are discussing the condition to resume the talks between the three countries, South Korea, U.S. and China,” he said.

On top of discussing the possibility of a fourth nuclear test by Pyongyang and preventive measures, Hwang is expected to update Davies on Foreign Minister Wang’s visit.

Hwang and Davies are also expected to discuss Japan and North Korea’s agreement last Thursday to reopen an investigation into missing Japanese nationals abducted to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, which came as Washington has pushed for stronger security cooperation between South Korea, the United States and Japan.

Some Korean analysts have interpreted Japan’s accord with North Korea as being mutually beneficial to Tokyo and Pyongyang, but not helpful for the six-party nations to pressure North Korea.

They are also expected to discuss the repercussions of Japan lifting some of its sanctions on North Korea, which are separate from other international and United Nations Security Council sanctions and emphasize the need for Tokyo to remain committed to cooperation in denuclearizing Pyongyang.

Hwang pointed out, “North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests thus far, and even within five years after the six-party talks have been halted, they have conducted them twice, so they can’t join the six-party talks as if nothing has happened.”

“South Korea and the U.S. are trying to control the shockwaves from the Japan-North Korea agreement,” Choi Kang, vice president of the Seoul-based think tank the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told the JoongAng Ilbo. “The U.S. won’t easily allow Japan’s easing of sanctions on North Korea.”

“The premise of the six-party talks was North Korea’s denuclearization and commitment to denuclearization. Otherwise, six-party talks would degenerate into a venue where North Korea will play petty games,” said Moon Chung-in, political science professor of Yonsei University and a former ambassador for International Security Affairs, at a forum last week discussing North Korea issues.

Kyodo News reported that the Japanese government plans to invite North Korean officials to the country, according to a government source Sunday.

Kyodo also reported Saturday that Japan was considering stationing diplomats and police officials in North Korea, initially on a short-term basis. But it quoted anonymous government sources saying that Tokyo is considering making them resident officials and establishing a permanent office.

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



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