SEOUL, September 20 (Itar-Tass) — Head of the North Korean delegation at the Six-Party Talks Ri Yong-ho who is currently in Beijing has called for the resumption of the nuclear dialogue without any preconditions. In so doing he reiterated Pyongyang’s position, which reduces the prospects for the resumption of these talks, the Yonhap news agency reported on Monday.
Ri Yong-ho made this statement at a closed forum in the capital of China. The North Korean diplomat is scheduled to have talks in Beijing on Wednesday with his South Korean counterpart Wi Sung-lac. One of the main issues at it will be the resumption of the talks on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, which, in addition to the two Koreas involve the United States, China, Russia and Japan.
Seoul and Washington have called on Pyongyang to stop all its nuclear activities and return the UN inspectors to the country before the resumption of the talks.
“Attaching pre-conditions ahead of a dialogue will hurt the trust and confidence in each other,” Ri was quoted as saying by the source, who asked not to be named. “That’s why we call for unconditionally resuming the six-party talks.” Ri said that he will persuade Wi to support the North's stance when the two envoys meet on Wednesday, the source said, according to Yonhap.
During the forum, Ri reportedly said that North Korea has proposed holding another round of meetings with the United States following Wednesday's inter-Korean discussion.
Wi and Ri met in Indonesia in late July for the first time in more than two years, setting the tone for renewed diplomatic efforts to reopen the stalled talks, which also involve the US, China, Japan and Russia. Since then, Seoul and Washington have engaged in preliminary discussions with Pyongyang to gauge the possibility of restarting the talks that have been dormant since late 2008.
Efforts to reopen the multilateral forum, aimed at ending the North’s nuclear weapons programs in return for economic aid, have been complicated by the North's nuclear and missile tests and military attacks on South Korea last year, the agency reported.
In Seoul, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said the denuclearisation efforts will go hand in hand with President Lee Myung-bak’s “grand bargain” initiative, which calls for North Korea to trade away its nuclear programs for economic aid and security guarantees, according to Yonhap.
Speaking at a parliamentary hearing, Kim said the nuclear envoys’ meeting signifies that South Korea will “examine the things North Korea wants” if Pyongyang agrees to abandon its nuclear arsenal. He stressed that the “grand bargain” will not go first, but together with denuclearisation efforts.
North Korea has a track record of using provocation and dialogue with South Korea, the US and other regional powers to try to wrest concessions before backtracking on agreements and abandoning talks. After sharply raising tension in the area last year, in recent months the North has expressed its willingness to rejoin the six-nation talks, according to Yonhap.
In November last year, North Korea also revealed the existence of a uranium enrichment facility, adding urgency to international efforts to check Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development. The North claims the uranium enrichment program is for the development of peaceful energy, but outside experts believe it will give the country a new source of fission material to make atomic bombs, in addition to its widely known plutonium-based 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 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.