ROK calls for military talks with DPRK
Updated: 2011-01-27 08:09
By He Wei (China Daily)
BEIJING - The Republic of Korea (ROK) called on Wednesday for military talks with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the wake of a senior US diplomat's backing for the meeting.
ROK Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan greets US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg in Seoul on Wednesday. The ROK called for preliminary military talks with the DPRK next month, in what would be their first dialogue since the bombardment of a border island last November. [Photo/Agencies]
If the DPRK accepts the proposal, such a meeting would be the first official contact since the shelling of a border island in November that deteriorated the already soured bilateral ties.
ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin sent a message to his DPRK counterpart suggesting a Feb 11 meeting in preparation for high-level defense talks at the border village of Panmunjom, the ROK Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
Seoul's proposal came less than a week after Pyongyang suggested that the two sides hold a working-level meeting between defense officials, as well as talks between their defense chiefs, to "resolve pending military issues".
On a visit to Seoul, US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg supported the proposal, and urged Pyongyang to demonstrate its sincerity to engage in meaningful dialogue on its nuclear programs.
After holding talks with ROK Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, Steinberg touted the closeness of the US-ROK alliance and broached the subject of referring the DPRK's uranium enrichment program to the UN.
Experts on Korean Peninsula issues said any suggestions for peace and dialogue are welcome, but they should not come with strings attached.
"There is a high likelihood that the talks will occur, since Pyongyang made the suggestion in the first place," said Huang Youfu, director of the Institute of Korean Studies at Minzu University of China.
But it is hard to predict whether the meeting would yield any positive results, Huang said, since Seoul has yet to soften its stance on the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of an ROK warship.
Countries should set aside their disputes to have a candid exchange of views, said Liu Jiangyong, an expert on East Asia studies at Beijing-based Tsinghua University.
The recently signed China-US joint communiqu expressed concern over the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Huang noted, and that is why "Steinberg will visit China for further coordination on inter-Korean talks".
Since countries including China and the US have made enormous efforts to get the ROK and the DPRK back around the negotiating table, Washington's backing for such bilateral talks may help "the revival of the Six-Party Talks and even the establishment of a permanent regional peace mechanism", Liu said.
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