DPRK, ROK talks end with no progress

Updated: 2011-02-10 07:51

(China Daily)

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BEIJING - Working-level military talks between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) at the truce village of Panmunjom ended in an impasse on Wednesday.

An official from the ROK's Defense Ministry told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity that the talks stalled and both sides were unable to reach an agreement on a date for future dialogue.

Discussions between colonels from both sides lasted for two days, and their meeting was the first dialogue since the exchange of fire at the ROK's Yeonpyeong Island in November.

Analysts said the deadlock was possibly due to the ROK's demand that Pyongyang apologize for the attack on the island and the sinking of the ROK warship Cheonan last March, which the DPRK denies having caused.

"Our stance has not changed. A higher-level military meeting will be possible only if the DPRK takes responsible measures for the attacks on Yeonpyeong Island and the Cheonan warship and promises not to carry out any more provocations," an ROK Defense Ministry spokesman told Yonhap after the military meeting.

Xinhua News Agency reported that the DPRK condemned Seoul's bid to take Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the DPRK's ruling Workers' Party, published a commentary warning that the ROK's attempt would escalate the confrontation between the two sides.

The article stressed that the DPRK's uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes and Seoul will not benefit from its attempt to refer the issue to the UNSC "along with outside forces". It also warned that such moves will hamper the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

"The ROK's actions in recent years have shown that policy of the current Lee Myung-bak government toward the DPRK shares no common ground with the 'Sunshine Policy' (pursued by the previous ROK administration of president Roh Moo-hyun)," said Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean affairs at the Central Party School in Beijing.

"Seoul has set the condition that the DPRK must give up its nuclear program if it expects more economic assistance and cooperation," Zhang said.

Fortunately, some signs of an easing in cross-border tension continue to exist with the ROK agreeing in principle to hold talks with the DPRK about reunions of separated families and other humanitarian issues.

"We conveyed our agreement to hold the Red Cross talks, as it is important for the DPRK and the ROK to discuss and resolve such issues of humanitarian concerns," ROK Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo told a media briefing, according to AFP.

The last round of temporary reunions for families separated by war 60 years ago took place last November, before the attack on Yeonpyeong.

In a survey by Professor Eun Ki-soo of Seoul National University, the proportion of ROK respondents with a positive view of reunification with the DPRK dropped from 58 percent in 1995 to only 12.3 percent in 2008, according to a report in the Straits Times newspaper.

China Daily - Agencies

(China Daily 02/10/2011 page11)


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