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U.S. Yet to Decide on Whether to Grant Visa to Kim Kye-gwan

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States has not yet decided whether to issue a visa to the chief North Korean nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, for an academic seminar in New York this month, a senior State Department official said on March 2.

   "We are aware of the invitation to come to the United States," the official said, asking for anonymity. "We have not made a decision as to whether to grant a visa."

   Reports said that Kim will visit New York soon for another meeting with Sung Kim, special envoy for the six-party talks, and other U.S. officials on the sidelines of a seminar. The goal would be to facilitate the reopening of the six-party talks on the North's denuclearization, which Pyongyang has boycotted for nearly a year due to U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.

   The first high-level bilateral meeting under the Obama administration was held in December, when Stephen Bosworth, special representative for North Korea policy, visited the North Korean capital.

   North Korea has called for the lifting of sanctions and the start of talks toward a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War before it returns to the nuclear talks.

   Washington wants Pyongyang to come back to the nuclear talks for any discussion of those issues.

   The U.S. will likely have another high-level meeting with North Korea soon, a senior South Korean official said here last week, citing the need to help the North save face, "although we think it is not desirable for the six-party process to be dependent on bilaterals."

   The South Korean official, asking for anonymity, also said, "The U.S. will be willing to have that kind of meeting only after North Korea has made it clear on when it will return to the six-party talks."

   Bosworth also said in Tokyo in the end of February, "I have no plans to meet North Korean officials at this point," adding, "We have no philosophical objection to meeting bilaterally" with North Korea.

   The Chinese foreign ministry last week encouraged bilateral dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. within the six-party framework, amid reports on Kim Kye-gwan's proposed New York trip.

   U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is currently in Beijing to discuss ways to lure North Korea back to the six-party talks, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on March 1.


CSIS to Launch Project with USC for Long-term Analysis of Korean Unification

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- A major U.S. think tank said on March 2 it will undertake a project with the University of Southern California to analyze the long-term political, economic and social ramifications of Korean reunification.

   The initiative, called "The Korea Project: Planning for the Long Term," will be led by Victor Cha, senior adviser and holder of the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and David Kang, director of the Korean Studies Institute at USC, the CSIS said in a statement.

   The project, sponsored by the Korea Foundation, will focus on the "yet-unstudied longer-term economic, political, and human security issues" rather than "near-term crisis planning in the case of severe instability on the Korean peninsula," the statement said.

   The project will feature a "network linking functional experts and Korea scholars, pathbreaking analysis of problems and solutions to integration of the Korean peninsula and workshops with Korea experts and institutions on developing cooperative regional solutions."

   Cha is former director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.

   "Military planners are preoccupied with contingency plans for instability on the Korean peninsula, but the yet-unstudied medium- and long-term scenarios are critically important," Cha said. "Governments cannot afford the time to think about the longer-term implications of Korean unification. With this project, we hope to fill this void as well as look at the opportunities and benefits that integration of the peninsula might afford for East Asia, Korea, and the United States."


U.S. Voices Concern over N. Korea's Possible Spread of Nuke Technology

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on March 3 expressed concerns over North Korea's possible transfer of nuclear weapons technology to Myanmar.

   "We are concerned about the potential contacts with North Korea and Burma (Myanmar)," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters. "We do have concerns about nuclear cooperation."

   Crowley was responding to reports that U.S. officials have discussed the issue with Myanmarese officials on several occasions.

   But the spokesman voiced confidence in the strength of United Nations Resolution 1874, adopted early last year after North Korean rocket launches. The tests violated previous U.N. resolutions banning missile and nuclear tests and preventing exports of weapons of mass destruction and some conventional arms.

   "That's one of the reasons why we worked with the international community to pass Resolution 1874," Crowley said. "We also note that as we discussed last fall that Burma itself has taken steps in support of 1874. But this is something that we will continue to talk to Burma about in our bilateral dialogue."

   In anger over the resolution, North Korea has boycotted the six-party talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs.

   Pyongyang has recently called for the removal of sanctions and new talks toward a peace treaty before it returns to the nuclear talks. The 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice,
North Korea is said to be a major proliferator of nuclear technology, missiles and other arms to Iran, Syria and other countries. Income from sales of those weapons are the major source of hard currency for the reclusive, impoverished communist state.

   Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in December expressed concerns over possible nuclear proliferation to Myanmar by North Korea.

   "There are troubling questions about military ties between Burma and North Korea ... which Secretary (Hillary) Clinton has spoken about publicly, as well as nuclear weapons proliferation concerns stemming from that relationship," Campbell told a House Foreign Affairs Committee at that time.

   In July, Clinton expressed "growing concerns" over "military cooperation between North Korea and Burma, which we take very seriously," but said that Myanmar has also joined international efforts to sanction North Korea.

   She was apparently referring to a North Korean cargo ship that was possibly heading to Myanmar, but returned home after being pursued by U.S. Navy vessels. The vessels were operating under an interdiction mandate imposed by the U.N. Security Council in response to North Korea's second nuclear test on May 25. The first was in 2006.