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Friday, July 29, 2011

Stephen Bosworth US special envoy meets Kim Kye-gwan DPRK vice-foreign minister in New York

Senior Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and United States diplomats met for "exploratory" talks on Pyongyang's willingness to resume negotiations over its nuclear program in New York on Thursday.
Stephen Bosworth, the US special envoy for North Korea, was in discussions with Kim Kye-gwan, DPRK's vice-foreign minister, at the US Mission to the United Nations. The talks are expected to continue through Friday.
US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the talks were exploratory and Washington aimed to gauge Pyongyang's willingness to "take concrete steps" to re-engage in aid-for-disarmament negotiations. 


"We're quite clear, broadly, on what we're looking for, which is for North Korea to live up to its commitments .... . It needs to take concrete steps toward denuclearization," Toner said during a news briefing in Washington.
Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution - a think tank in Washington DC - said he was not optimistic about the talks in the sense that the US and the DPRK have approached these talks with very different expectations.
"Some form of contact here was seen as useful. But the fundamental challenge here is we have been here before. This is not the first time that we have faced this kind of situation," said Pollack, adding the DPRK has reneged on every nuclear weapons agreement it's ever signed since 1985.
"North Korea has to weigh whether or not it makes concessions or gives indications of a genuine willingness to shift its stance and shift its activities if it values enough some kind of negotiation with the US and with others. But the US will proceed very carefully here if they are to justify the resumption of some kind of more regular diplomatic contact here," Pollack told China Daily.
Some experts in Beijing, however, are more optimistic about the New York meeting, arguing this may have some positive impact on the resumption of the Six-Party Talks that has been stalled since late 2008.
Liu Jiangyong, an expert on East Asia studies at Tsinghua University, said the meeting could ease the tensions.
"The DPRK wants to improve its relations with the US and the meeting is part of DPRK's efforts to that end", Liu told China Daily.
Liu also pointed out that this meeting is not accidental as during the Association of South-East Asian Nations Forum last week in Bali,Indonesia, the US and the DPRK engaged in a talk for the first time in two-and-a-half years.
However, Piao Jianyi, director of the Center of Korean Peninsula Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said uncertainty still exists for resuming the six-party talks.
He said the US is still testing whether DPRK is ready for the resumption of the talks or not, and if the two sides could not reach an agreement, relations between the US and the DPRK will return to square one.
"In general it is the US and China which push the Six-Party Talks to proceed. We will wait and see how the meeting proceeds," Piao told China Daily.
The US made an announcement on the New York meeting on Sunday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters that the US does not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table.
"We will not give them anything new for actions they have already agreed to take," Clinton said.
US officials also have said that they will not rush back into talks that were last held under the Bush administration in late 2008.
As the talks started in New York, neither side commented publicly on the meeting, which may carry diplomatic risks for each.
The US State Department released a brief statement, indicating the first day of discussions "have been serious and businesslike."
"We look forward to continuing our meetings tomorrow," it read.
The DPRK quit the Six-Party Talks - which also includes China, Japan, Russia and South Korea - after the isolated state's 2009 nuclear test was met with UN Security Council sanctions.
In 2005, the six countries signed an agreement which spelled out a process in which the DPRK would scrap its nuclear programs in exchange for economic and energy aid and diplomatic relations with the US and Japan.
The DPRK has set out some terms of its own, repeating its calls for a peace treaty to replace the truce that ended the 1950-1953 Korean War.
The current talks are a sign tensions between the two Koreas are easing since two attacks last year.
The current meeting is seen as a rare because it is the first such contact between the two sides since a visit by Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea to Pyongyang in 2009.
"I think we should all be prepared to withhold judgment (on the New York meeting). The only question is whether or not both sides saw a basis where there was a sufficient narrowing of differences that they could proceed ahead with other activities and talks including, hypothetically, a resumption of the six-party talks," Pollack said.

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