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2009/08/27 10:36 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 69 (August 27, 2009)


New Mexico Gov. Meets N. Korean Diplomats in Santa Fe

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- In a meeting with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on Aug. 19, North Korean officials demanded that the United States engage in bilateral dialogue for a breakthrough in stalled six-party nuclear negotiations, the governor and former U.N. ambassador said.

   Minister Kim Myong-gil, a diplomat with the North's mission to the United Nations in New York, met with Richardson in Santa Fe to deliver the demand, said the governor, who has visited Pyongyang several times in past decades. In the 1990s, he successfully negotiated the release of two American citizens held in North Korea.

   "They're sending signals that they're ready to resume a dialogue," Richardson said in an interview with MSNBC soon after his three-hour meeting with Kim and another diplomat, Paek Jong-ho, at his mansion in Santa Fe. "I'm not negotiating, but they are telling me things that they are prepared to do. And I'm going to pass them on."

   Despite U.S. assertions that Richardson was acting independently of the Obama administration, the meeting drew attention as it follows the landmark visit to Pyongyang by former President Bill Clinton early this month to win the release of two American journalists detained for illegally entering the North on a reporting tour.

   Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il for three hours in Pyongyang and Tuesday briefed Obama on his Pyongyang trip. The North Korean leader reportedly proposed to improve bilateral ties.

   "The North Koreans clearly feel that they're owed something, that they released the two Americans and that they want a gesture in return," the governor said. "I do see a possible thaw. Let's take advantage of this thaw, and the next step should be some kind of dialogue that involves the United States and North Korea."

   Richardson expressed hope that a compromise will be made with North Korea, which has shunned the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   "The North Koreans are not accepting that now, but, you know, there's negotiation and bargaining and diplomacy that has to take place," he said.

   He said he also discussed renewable energy with the North Korean diplomats, saying the North Koreans will "visit some renewable energy facilities, meet with some executives here."

   State Department spokesman Ian Kelly insisted the department knows nothing about the substance of the meeting, which was unofficial.


High Possibility of U.S.-N.K. Direct Talks: U.S. Experts

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- American experts expect that direct talks between the United States and North Korea will open in the near future, but denuclearization of the North is unlikely, Voice of America said on Aug. 21.

   Mitchell Reiss, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State, anticipated that there would soon be bilateral talks, adding that a tough one-sided policy on North Korea could discourage other countries like China from taking part in the U.S.-led U.N. sanctions.

   Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project, also said that North Korea would enter into talks with the U.S., as well as with South Korea and Japan. He said that the nuclear problem should be solved through a more active diplomacy before North Korea further develops its weapons technology.
Gordon Flake, executive director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield foundation, said there is a good chance that a U.S. government official will be sent to North Korea to repeat and clarify the position of the Obama administration.

   Denuclearization of North Korea, however, is doubtful, says Reiss, as the two sides have fundamentally opposing views on the matter. Unless the North shifts from its demand that Washington acknowledge it as a nuclear power, the U.S. will continue to maintain sanctions against the socialist country.

   The North released two American journalists earlier this month in a conciliatory gesture. It also freed a South Korean worker and sent a delegation to offer condolences to late former President Kim Dae-jung last week.


U.S. Welcomes Inter-Korean Dialogue, Sees Thawing Relations

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on Aug. 24 welcomed high-level contact between the two Koreas, but said no progress has been made on international efforts to bring the North back to the six-party talks on its denuclearization.

   "We support a dialogue between North Korea and South Korea, and we welcome meaningful steps that lead to a reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said in a daily news briefing. "We've seen some helpful steps in thawing the relationship between the North and the South ... on a bilateral basis, in terms of opening up some kind of dialogue."
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met with Kim Ki-nam, secretary of North Korea's ruling Workers Party, at his office for about half an hour Sunday to discuss "progress in inter-Korean cooperation."

   Kim led a six-member North Korean delegation to the state funeral of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who held the first inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.

   Kim Yang-gon, a senior official of the Workers Party who is in charge of inter-Korean affairs, met with South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek Saturday to discuss inter-Korean rapprochement measures in the first ministerial-level contact between the two Koreas since Lee's inauguration in February last year.

   Lee stopped food aid to and economic cooperation with North Korea in a departure from the engagement policy pursued by Kim Dae-jung and his liberal successor, Roh Moo-hyun, saying North Korea should first take steps toward denuclearization.

   "I would not say that we've seen really any progress toward our oft-stated goal and our clear position that we want to engage with North Korea to discuss the denuclearization issue in the six-party context," Kelly said. "We're very firm on that. We're willing to talk with them bilaterally, but only in this multilateral context."


South Korean Worker Insulted Kim, Made False Confession

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A South Korean worker recently released after several months of detention in the North apparently criticized the state's leader and urged a North Korean woman he was dating to defect, a South Korean government report said on Aug. 25.

   The report, released by Seoul's Unification Ministry, acknowledged the key charges North Korea presented against Yu Seong-jin, an engineer working for Hyundai Asan Corp. at the inter-Korean Kaesong complex. The crimes violate both the North's domestic law and inter-Korean agreements governing the joint venture.

   According to the report, however, the North also violated inter-Korean accords by extracting a false confession from Yu during his 137 days of incommunicado detention, the report concluded.

   "Yu Seong-jin, by dating a North Korean woman, violated the Inter-Korean Agreement on Entrances and Visits to the Kaesong-Mount Kumgang Zones," the report said.

   "However, the North did not respect his basic rights, in violation of the above-said agreement," it added.

   North Korea sent a fax message to the South after Yu was detained on March 30 saying he would be investigated for the charges.

   Little had been known about the circumstances leading up to Yu's arrest until he was released on Aug. 13 during a visit to Pyongyang by Hyun Jeong-eun, the chairwoman of Hyundai Asan's parent, Hyundai Group. Government officials questioned Yu at a Seoul hospital, where he received medical checkups after his return, the report said.

   The unmarried 44-year-old started working at the joint park in 2005. He said he "naturally became close" with a North Korean woman, surnamed Ri, who cleaned the lodging house where he was employed, showering her with South Korean-made gifts such as DVDs, an MP3 player, cosmetics and a watch, the report said. Romantic relationships between South and North Koreans is officially banned at the joint park.

   "On several occasions, he sent Ms. Ri letters that included descriptions of the private life of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the trend of North Korean defections and ways to defect," the report said.

   Yu first denied all the accusations but later acknowledged them after North Korea presented the letters as evidence, it said.

   The investigation was completed in mid-June, and it was not clear why the North held Yu until August, a ministry official overseeing the joint industrial complex said.


Bosworth Has No Immediate Plans to Visit North Korea

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. point man on North Korea has no immediate plans to visit Pyongyang to discuss ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the State Department said on Aug. 25, but hinted he may fly to the North Korean capital at some future date.

   Reports alleged that Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, and Sung Kim, special envoy for six-party talks, will visit Pyongyang next month at the invitation of North Korea to discuss the six-party talks on the North's denuclearization, which have been stalled over international sanctions on North Korea.

   "Neither one of them have any plans right now to go to North Korea," spokesman Ian Kelly said in a daily news briefing.

   Reports and diplomatic sources said that Bosworth and Sung Kim will fly to Pyongyang as part of their tour of Asian capitals next month in connection with the six-party talks, which also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

   "We expect in the not-too-distant future that other U.S. officials will travel out there as soon as we get through this summer period," the spokesman said. "I expect that Ambassador Bosworth will be going out there. I don't have any announcements to make right now, but I expect that he will go out there."

   Kelly would not respond when asked if North Korea has issued an invitation to Bosworth and Sung Kim, but gave the impression that the invitation might have been extended verbally.

   "I don't think I'd characterize it as issuing an invitation, but beyond that, I'm not going to comment," he said. "We have all kinds of ways of communicating with North Korea, and I'm not going to characterize those."

   Reports said that North Korea had extended the invitation when former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang to win the release of two American journalists held for illegally entering the North. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met with Clinton for more than three hours to call for a resumption of dialogue.

   The invitation comes amid a series of reconciliatory overtures from the North in recent weeks after Pyongyang provoked the international community with nuclear and missile tests and threats of nuclear war. The moves triggered U.N. sanctions on the reclusive, impoverished communist state.

   Pyongyang rejected Washington's proposal to send Bosworth in March.

   In the most recent gesture last week, North Korea sent a high-level delegation to South Korea to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, with whom North Korean leader Kim Jong-il held the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.