ROK hopes to revive contacts with DPRK

Updated: 2011-02-21 08:00

By He Wei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Seoul expressed hopes on Sunday of reviving contacts with Pyongyang through "genuine dialogue", with Republic of Korea (ROK) President Lee Myung-bak referring to the possibility of summit-level dialogue this year.

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Lee said on Sunday that the ROK is ready for talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to promote a real change in ties, reported the Associated Press, after recent military talks broke down between Seoul and Pyongyang.

He said he would like to give the DPRK "the message that we are always open (to talks) and (they have) a good chance this year," Lee told reporters.

In another development, the ROK announced on Friday a plan to hold talks on nuclear deterrence measures with Washington next month, the ROK's Yonhap News Agency cited government officials as saying.

The meeting will focus on strengthening Washington's extended deterrence for Seoul against possible threats posed by the DPRK's nuclear program and weapons of mass destruction, according to the Yonhap report.

Meanwhile, the ROK is also actively seeking to take the DPRK's uranium enrichment program to an expert-level meeting within the United Nations Security Council on Feb 23, for possible further sanctions.

In this context, a series of diplomatic efforts is taking place regarding Pyongyang's nuclear program with Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi due to visit the ROK on Wednesday to discuss the issue, AFP reported.

Mutual distrust and diverging agendas have caused the current deadlock, experts said.

Although Lee has expressed readiness for talks, "Seoul's level of tolerance of a further provocation from Pyongyang appears to be very low", said Piao Jianyi, director of the Center of Korean Peninsula Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"After last year's Yeonpyeong Island bombardment and the Cheonan warship torpedoing, Seoul took a hard line and urged Pyongyang to show a sincere attitude and apologize ahead of anything," said Jin Canrong, vice-dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China.

"The diverging agendas explain why the first military talks this year collapsed," Jin noted.

Piao said it was unwise of Seoul to hastily refer the issue to the UN Security Council, as it would complicate the situation.

More importantly, such a harsh stance is likely to prompt the DPRK to accelerate its nuclear development, Jin said.

Piao said even the United States has played down speculation of another missile launch by the DPRK, according to recent remarks by US Navy Admiral Robert Willard.

"Washington, in comparison (with Seoul), has taken a more flexible attitude toward the DPRK, seeking opportunities such as food aid to engage the country," Piao said.


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