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2007/08/13 08:27 KST
U.S. wants Seoul to push on nuclear issue, but P'yang unlikely to respond: U.S. observer

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (Yonhap) -- The upcoming inter-Korean summit is unlikely to have a major impact on North Korea's denuclearization because of a lukewarm attitude by North Korea, which sees the nuclear issue as one between Pyongyang and Washington, a U.S. observer said Sunday.
"Unfortunately, Kim Jong-il is not likely to discuss the nuclear issue at length with President Roh (Moo-hyun), since the North Korean position is that it is a North Korean-U.S. issue," David Straub, former Korea desk chief at the State Department, said in an e-mail interview with Yonhap.

   Roh is scheduled to visit Pyongyang on Aug. 28-30 to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim for the second inter-Korean summit since the national division over half a century ago. The first such summit was in June 2000.

   The two leaders meet ahead of a critical phase in the Feb. 19 six-nation agreement to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons and programs. Pyongyang suspended operation of its key atomic installations, and now it is required to declare and disable all of its nuclear facilities and stockpile. The five other parties -- South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan -- are to provide economic and political incentives in return.

   The hope is for the summit to contribute to inter-Korean relations and to resolution of the nuclear issue, said Straub, "Based on North Korea's behavior and positions, however, I am not very optimistic."
The U.S. may be disappointed, but absence of progress on the nuclear issue would not hurt Seoul-Washington relations, he predicted.

   "The U.S. would be concerned, however, if North Korea received many benefits from (South Korea) while making little real effort to resolve the nuclear issue," he said.

   Straub said he believes the U.S. genuinely supports South-North reconciliation but hopes President Roh would "do everything possible at the summit" for an early resolution of the nuclear issue.

   The South Korean president will address regional agendas, including the nuclear issue which the U.S. sees as the "most immediate concern," Straub said. Progress on the nuclear front at the summit would accelerate U.S.-North Korea normalization talks, he said.

   The former diplomat did not go into great detail on whether Seoul had sufficiently consulted with Washington about the summit, but said it can harm bilateral relations.

   "Such meetings typically are conducted with little consultation with third parties," Straub noted, including when then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September 2002.

   "The U.S. also has not always been good about consulting with partners," he said. "Of course, such failures to consult among allies is harmful in the long run."