Tuesday, May 17, 2005

North Korea Hungers for Dialog?

Chosun Ilbo reports that Kim Jong Il has invited Condoleeza Rice for bilateral talks and expressed his willingness to return to the the six party talks (hat-tip: Huffington Post).

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has reportedly asked U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit his country for bilateral negotiations aimed at resolving the communist country's nuclear ambitions.
According to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, citing multiple unnamed diplomatic sources, North Korea is expressing its willingness to return to the stalled six-party talks, while at the same time wanting to hold bilateral talks with the United States.

I have used Chosun Ilbo as a source before, but I wonder if it is reliable enough. No other news source makes such a strong statement regarding Kim Jong Il's willingness for a return to six party talks. However, there does seem to be some negotiations happening between South and North Korea in an effort to bring the DPRK back to table.

The rival Koreas resumed their first face-to-face talks in 10 months at the North Korean border village of Kaesong. The two-day meeting began Monday, with both delegations returning to their respective capitals for consultations after six hours of talks.

Talks between the two Koreas broke off in July after mass defections to South Korea from the North that it labeled kidnappings.

Rhee made several suggestions for improving relations. North Korea wanted to talk about food aid and fertilizer for its spring planting season; Rhee said the size of such aid needs further consultations.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher offered support for South Korean efforts to bring North Korea back to negotiations. He added, however, that United States believes "humanitarian assistance to the people of North Korea, including food or helping them grow food, shouldn't be conditioned or negotiated as part of the six-party talks." - San Diego Union Tribune (AP)

I mentioned Japan's decision to end food shipments to North Korea in my May 11 post on the situation. The BBC is now reporting that food situation in the DPRK is becoming dire, according the World Food Program (WFP).

The head of the World Food Programme's North Korea mission told the BBC that without new contributions famine-like conditions would be likely to reappear.

The warning comes as North and South Koreans hold a second day of talks at which the North is expected to call for more aid and agricultural fertiliser.

Seoul says it has offered new proposals to Pyongyang to resume six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme.

If the South can secure a commitment to resume the six-party talks, that would be a significant accomplishment for South Korean President Roh and the Bush Administration's approach to the North Korean problem. I know, as Boucher points out, the U.S. will only allow the food shortages to continue for limited amounts of time. It will be interesting to see who blinks first and what the result will be. Stay tuned...


Blogger Mike said...

Seems to me it's a simple question of guns-n-butter. Kim Jong Il has to ask himself if he wants guns or butter. Once he makes up his mind that will dictate our policy. But we should not give him free food so he can spend his money on guns.

5:19 AM  

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