Koreas should discuss nukes before six-party talks can reopen: Lee adviser

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak

 

SEOUL, Jan. 27 (KATAKAMI / Yonhap) — North Korea must show its genuine willingness to denuclearize in dialogue with South Korea if the communist state wants to see the restart of six-party talks on its nuclear programs, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s top security adviser said Thursday.

The comments by Chun Yung-woo come as the two Koreas are planning to hold their first military talks in months after the North sharply raised tensions by shelling a South Korean island on Nov. 23.

South Korea proposed earlier this week that the sides hold a preliminary meeting on Feb. 11. The North, which had first proposed high-level defense talks to defuse tension, has yet to respond.

Speaking in a speech in Seoul, Chun said the planned dialogue would serve as a “test bed” for North Korea to show that it has turned around from its pursuit of nuclear arms.

“Six-party talks resumed without the commitment to abandon nuclear programs will merely be talks for the sake of talks and a venue for North Korea to buy time,” Chun told a group of unification activists. “If the sincerity is confirmed, we will then resume the six-party talks and discuss in which order and through which plan (denuclearization) will be achieved.”

Chun’s comments are the strongest affirmation yet that inter-Korean dialogue is the door to the resumption of the multinational denuclearization-for-aid talks that group the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, Japan and China.

In their summit in Washington last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao also called for “sincere and constructive” dialogue between the two Koreas while expressing concern over deepening nuclear development in the North.

Chun said North Korea has incurred an estimated annual economic loss of US$300 million since South Korea suspended cross-border trade over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

The price of rice in North Korea also doubled in the past three months, he said, describing Pyongyang as “very desperate” for aid that would facilitate its ongoing hereditary power succession.

“North Korea has kicked away its own lifeline” by going ahead with provocative acts, including the deadly Nov. 23 bombardment of a South Korean Yellow Sea island and its nuclear tests, Chun said.

“Denuclearization is possible when (the North) is faced with having to choose between either denuclearizing or not,” he said, calling the latter a choice with “no future.”

Chun, who used to represent South Korea in the six-party talks, said his government is not preoccupied with drawing apologies from the North over the warship sinking and island shelling last year, but that there is “no reason why the North should not apologize.”

“No progress will be made if (North Korea) behaves irrationally” in its military talks with South Korea by seeking rice and fertilizer aid instead of genuine reconciliation, Chun said.

“We’re trying to see whether or not the North is only trying to extract something from inter-Korean talks,” he said. “We have been cheated many times by peace offensives, but we no longer shall be.”

The two Koreas remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty. After a decade of thawing, the relations between the Koreas deteriorated as President Lee, upon taking office in 2008, made denuclearization his top policy priority in dealing with the North.  (*)

 

 

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