Seoul’s allies show support for inter-Korean pact

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Seoul’s allies show support for inter-Korean pact

Partner countries of South Korea, including the United States, Japan and China, welcomed the six-point agreement reached early Tuesday morning between Seoul and Pyongyang that quelled the latest military standoff between the two Koreas.

The U.S. State Department lauded President Park Geun-hye’s efforts to improve inter-Korean relations but was cautious on whether the agreement would immediately reduce tension on the peninsula.

“The United States welcomes the agreement reached between the Republic of Korea and the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] earlier today,” U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a briefing Monday in Washington.

“Now it’s up to the North to act and not simply just make assurances with respect to their own military activities there along the border,” he added. “We support President Park’s tireless efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, which support peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

The U.S. State Department spokesman also pushed aside concerns over whether South Korea caved to North Korean demands that they cease the broadcasts.

Pyongyang denied that it planted land mines on the South Korean side of the inter-Korean border at the demilitarized zone that maimed two South Korean soldiers on Aug. 4.

But in the agreement reached in high-level marathon negotiations, which lasted from Saturday to early Tuesday, Pyongyang expressed “regret” over the land mine explosion - which in itself is considered a great concession - though it steered clear of offering a full apology.

In return, South Korea halted the anti-Pyongyang loudspeaker broadcasts across the border to retaliate for the land mine explosion.

“I don’t know that I would characterize anything as backing down,” Kirby said regarding Seoul’s negotiations with the North. “They’ve been strong and they’ve been resolute. ... But this was, as most agreements are, a compromise.”

“What’s important here,” he added, “is that the two sides did get together, they did come to an agreement that they both found mutually satisfactory.”

In response to the high-level negotiations, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet’s Upper House on Tuesday that he “looks forward to North Korea refraining from provocative acts so that this can segue into an easing of tensions in the region and a resolution to problems,” Kyodo News reported.

North Korea, he said, is “tough to predict,” and there is a need for Tokyo to pay attention to developments there and prepare for needed responses.

Abe also reportedly canceled his three-day vacation plans that would have kicked off last Friday because of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Likewise, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he viewed the inter-Korean agreement positively and added that Tokyo “will cooperate closely with the United States and South Korea and continue to respond alertly.”

Beijing also welcomed the “series of agreements on easing tensions and improving inter-Korea relations,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in a briefing on Tuesday.

She added that Beijing “hopes that the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and [South Korea] can carry on dialogues and consultations, promote reconciliation and cooperation, earnestly implement relevant agreements, and jointly safeguard peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Seoul actively communicated with related countries throughout the escalated tension after North Korea’s land mine attack and gave prior notification to its partners immediately after the agreement with Pyongyang was sealed.

“Our Foreign Ministry has actively explained our position through various levels on North Korea’s land mine attack to the United States, China and the international community, and has been active in gaining their support through diplomatic efforts,” Noh Kwang-il, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a briefing on Tuesday in Seoul.

“Early this morning when [the agreement] was concluded, right before our own announcement, we notified in advance countries including the United States, China and the United Nations,” he added.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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