North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

DPRK-ROK Beijing Interaction Ends Without Progress

Wi Sung-lac (R), South Korea's chief negotiator to the six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization, and his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho, sit in silence for a while at Chang An Club in Beijing on Sept. 21 prior to their talks on preconditions for the reopening of the stalled talks. The multilateral talks have been suspended since April 2009 when the North suddenly withdrew before conducting its second nuclear test a month later. (Yonhap)

Denuclearization talks held between the two Koreas on 21 September (Wednesday) in Beijing ended without any further progress toward resumption of the 6 Party Talks.  Despite any substantial movement toward the 6PT’s resumption, a ROK Foreign Ministry spokesman said the “two sides made progress on comprehensive issues on Wednesday.”  ROK’s chief representative at the interaction, Wi Sung-lac, told reporters, “We discussed the nuclear problem in general, and a meeting such as this is part of the efforts to restart the six-party talks.  We will keep putting in these efforts.”

The DPRK did not agree to any “pre-steps” on its part, a condition put forward by ROK.  Prior to the 21 September meeting, the DPRK reiterated previous statements about “unconditional return” to the 6PT, which indicated that the meetings would not be as “fruitful” as ROK officials had hoped.  The DPRK has said it will unveil a series of actions it would take, but only after the 6PT are reconvened.  On 19 September (Monday), the China Institute for International Studies hosted a symposium commemorating the six years since the 19 September joint statement.  The event was attended by 20 experts from the 6PT countries, as well as Australia and Singapore.

The keynote speech was delivered by PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.  During his remarks Ri Yong Ho said, “Due to historical influence and the complexity of immediate interests, the easing of animosity between the two countries concerned becomes a crucial factor in the solution of the problem, and accordingly the Statement laid down the principles for the peaceful solution of this problem on the basis of mutual respect and equality.  Ri also said the symposium was “held at an opportune moment.”  KCNA later described the symposium as “fruitful.”

Despite a lack of superficial progress at the 6-year old denuclearization forum, which has been in recess for half that time, relations between the DPRK and ROK are not nearly as icy as they were at the beginning of the summer.  JoongAng Ilbo reports:

North Korea and the United States will likely meet in Malaysia next month to discuss the long-stalled project of excavating and repatriating remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War, a Seoul official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

The news, following a second round of inter-Korean talks in Beijing Wednesday and other Pyongyang-Washington exchanges planned for later this year, suggests the road to resuming six-nation talks on the North’s denuclearization is getting smoother.

The first reunion of Korean families divided between the United States and North Korea is expected soon.

The reunion of 10 families was agreed upon last month and is supposed to lead to more reunions.

A North Korean orchestra is also reportedly planning to visit the United States for a performance in November in response to the New York Philharmonic’s performance in Pyongyang in 2008.

Diplomatic observers in Seoul said that although cultural and humanitarian exchanges are technically separate from politics, they signal a thaw between the United States and North Korea and the two countries are getting closer to a breakthrough in restarting the six-party talks.

A high-ranking Seoul official said yesterday the United States and the North are discussing another round of denuclearization talks sometime next month in a third country. The nuclear envoys of the two nations met in New York in July.

Leaders from South Korea's seven largest religious groups including Roman Catholics, Protestants and Buddhists, pose for a photo after arriving in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sept. 21. During their four-day stay in the North, the leaders plan to meet with their North Korean counterparts in such places as Pyongyang and Mount Paekdu on the border with China. (KCNA-Yonhap)

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