SEOUL, September 18 (Itar-Tass) — The heads of the South Korean and North Korean delegations at the six-party talks on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula Wi Sung-lac and Ri Yong-ho will meet in Beijing next week, the Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday quoting a senior South Korean government official.
“North and South Korea have agreed to appoint September 21 as the date for the talks on the nuclear issue,” the agency quoted source. The exact time and duration of the talks will be announced later.
It will be the second over the past two months a high-level inter-Korean contact. The previous similar meeting was held in Indonesia in July this year.
The bilateral consultations, analysts expect, could be a prelude to the resumption of the six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula, which involve, in addition to North Korea and South Korea, Russia, China, the United States and Japan. Despite the fact that some time ago Pyongyang called for an early resumption of negotiations in this format, Seoul and Washington believe that the North must first prove in practice that it will not cancel its previous obligations in the nuclear disarmament sphere.
According to Yonhap, Wi Sung-lac and Ri Yong-ho will hold the talks in the Chinese capital on Wednesday, the second round of bilateral diplomatic meetings this year. “The South and North agreed to set a date for the nuclear talks on September 21,” said the official. “The exact time and frequency will be discussed there (in Beijing).”
The two top nuclear negotiators met in Indonesia for the first time in more than two years in late July, setting the tone for renewed diplomatic efforts to reopen the stalled six-party talks. “In the upcoming meeting, they will discuss broader issues like they did in Indonesia to create conditions for resuming the six-way talks,” said the official. “Securing the preemptive steps for denuclearisation is the goal of this meeting.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, during a rare summit on August 24 with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, reportedly pledged to consider issuing a moratorium on nuclear testing and missile launches if the six-party talks resume.
South Korea and the United States, however, have demand that Pyongyang suspend its uranium enrichment programs, accept inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency and announce a moratorium on testing weapons of mass destruction before the multilateral negotiations begin. “But we can’t achieve results through just one or two rounds of denuclearisation talks,” said the official. “The North did not express its position on the preconditions during the recent talks to fix the date.”
The North's uranium program is among the key hurdles to the resumption of the six-party dialogue, which has been stalled since late 2008. In November last year, North Korea revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment facility, adding urgency to check Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development. The North claims the uranium enrichment program is for peaceful energy development, but outside experts believe that it will give the country a new source of fission material to make atomic bombs, in addition to its widely known plutonium-based nuclear weapons program.
The six-party talks were a result of North Korea withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003. Apparent gains following the fourth and fifth rounds were reversed by outside events. Five rounds of talks from 2003 to 2007 produced little net progress until the third phase of the fifth round of talks, when North Korea agreed to shut down its nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel aid and steps towards the normalization of relations with the United States and Japan. Responding angrily to the United Nations Security Council's Presidential Statement issued on April 13, 2009 that condemned the North Korean failed satellite launch, the DPRK declared on April 14, 2009 that it would pull out of Six Party Talks and that it would resume its nuclear enrichment program in order to boost its nuclear deterrent. North Korea has also expelled all nuclear inspectors from the country.
On April 5, 2009, North Korea proceeded with its announced satellite launch, despite international pressure not to do so. The pressure was due to international belief that the “satellite” was in fact a test of North Korea’s Taepodong-2 ICBM. The launch was a failure, and it landed in the Pacific Ocean. Despite the failure, US President Barack Obama responded that “violations must be punished.” South Korea urged heavier sanctions against North Korea.
On April 13, 2009, the United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously to a Presidential Statement that condemned North Korea for the launch and stated the Council's intention to expand sanctions on North Korea.
On April 14, 2009, North Korea, responding angrily to the UN Security Council's resolution, said that it “will never again take part in such [six party] talks and will not be bound by any agreement reached at the talks.” North Korea expelled nuclear inspectors from the country and also informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that they would resume their nuclear weapons program.
On May 25, 2009, North Korea detonated a nuclear device underground. The test was condemned by the United Nations, NATO, the other five members of the Six-party talks, and many other countries worldwide.