Clinton, Chinese Official Discuss Six-way Talks Reopening: State Dept.
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on April 29 spoke with her Chinese counterpart about how to revive the six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization, amid escalating tensions over Pyongyang's suspected involvement in the sinking of a South Korean warship.
Clinton had a "lengthy" morning telephone conversation with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley.
"During that discussion ... they also talked about our ongoing engagement regarding a new U.N. Security Council resolution on Iran, and they also discussed mutual efforts to get North Korea back to the six-party process," Crowley said.
Crowley did not elaborate on the contents of the discussion, which took place ahead of Clinton's visit to Beijing next month for security dialogue, but urged the North to return to the multilateral nuclear talks, stalled over U.N. sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests.
"In the case of North Korea, we have said, very specifically, if you want to have a normal bilateral relationship with the United States, there is a clear path to get there," he said. "But there are things that North Korea has to do first."
North Korea has called for an end to the sanctions before it returns to the six-party talks. It also demands dialogue on a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
International efforts to persuade the North back to the nuclear talks, however, hit a road bump with the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan in waters near the maritime border in the Yellow Sea last month, which killed 40 sailors and left six others missing, also presumed dead.
South Korea has salvaged the stern and the bow, separated apparently by a strong external explosion that South Korean defense minister said may have been caused by a torpedo attack, without naming North Korea.
The U.S. has sent a group of military and civilian experts to join an international team to investigate the cause. It has not yet produced an official result.
"We are in close touch with the South Korean government at senior levels and we are coordinating and assisting in the investigation of the sinking of the Navy vessel," Crowley said. "The investigation taking place is methodical, careful, and includes civilian experts. And we will continue to collect, analyze and assess the evidence to get to the bottom of this tragic loss of life."
The spokesman extended sympathy to the dead seamen, whose bodies were buried at a national cemetery in South Korea earlier in the day.
U.S. Calls on N. Korea to Release Its Citizen on Humanitarian Grounds
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on April 30 called on North Korea to release an American citizen sentenced to eight years at hard labor for illegal entry.
North Korea said earlier in the day that Aijalon Gomes, 30, of Boston, was allowed to telephone his family on April 30 and deliver a petition to a Swedish diplomat in Pyongyang.
The Swedish mission handles U.S. consular affairs in North Korea, where the United States has no diplomatic presence.
"It is a gesture," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. "But what we want to see is him released on a humanitarian ground."
Earlier April, North Korea said that Gomes was sentenced to eight years in a labor and reeducation camp and fined about US$700,000 for illegal entry on Jan. 25.
Gomes, who taught English in South Korea, is the fourth American held in the North since early last year.
He reportedly sympathized with another American, Robert Park, 28, who was released in February after crossing the Chinese border on Christmas Day to call international attention to North Korea's poor human rights record.
Two American journalists were set free in August as former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang. The journalists were on a reporting tour covering North Korean defectors when they were caught in March.
South Korean Activists Send Leaflets to North Korea
PAJU, South Korea (Yonhap) -- South Korean activists sent balloons filled with anti-North Korean leaflets over the demilitarized zone into the communist neighbor, sources at Fighters for Free North Korea said on May 1.
The Seoul-based organization made up of North Korean defectors and local human rights advocates said 200 of its members sent 100,000 leaflets and 3,000 U.S. one-dollar notes from Imjingak, a pavilion near the inter-Korean border, about 40 kilometers northwest of Seoul.
It added that 200 small radios that can pick up transmissions from South Korea and 200 DVDs were sent in 500 small balloons.
The leaflets contained anti-North Korean materials and the full text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The release of the balloons follows a similar action taken on April 15.
Suzanne Scholte, head of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, an association of U.S. civic groups, also took part in the event.
The action come despite repeated warnings by North Korea that such "provocations" are detrimental to the already strained South-North relations.
Ban Urges N. Korea to Return to Six-way Talks for Denuclearization
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on May 3 called on North Korea to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear dismantlement, which Pyongyang has boycotted for over a year due to U.N. sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests.
"Looking to Northeast Asia, I encourage the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible, without preconditions, to realize the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Ban told representatives of more than 150 members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty who gathered in New York for a five-year review conference, according to a transcript released by the U.N. Secretariat.
Ban's remarks come amid reports of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's rare visit to China earlier today, possibly to get economic assistance from its biggest benefactor in return for a pledge to come back to the nuclear talks.
But the talks also hinge on South Korea, which is investigating the sinking of a South Korean warship in waters near the disputed sea border with the North. Seoul has not yet blamed the North for the disaster March 26 that claimed 46 lives, but Defense Minister Kim Tae-young has said a torpedo attack is the most likely cause.
"I urge those countries that are currently outside the Treaty regime to accede to it as soon as possible," said Ban, former South Korean foreign minister. "It should be unacceptable for countries to use the Treaty as cover to develop nuclear weapons, only to withdraw afterwards."
North Korea withdrew from the NPT in 2003, and detonated its first nuclear device in 2005.
N. Korea Has Deployed 50,000 Special Forces along Frontlines: Source
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently deployed about 50,000 special forces along its border with South Korea, a source here said on May 5, as tension rises on the divided peninsula over a suspected deadly North Korean attack on a South Korean warship.
"North Korea recently completed the frontline deployment of seven light infantry divisions, which is something it had been pushing for since two to three years ago," the high-level source said, adding each division consists of about 7,000 troops.
North Korea has in recent years increased the number of its special forces to 180,000. Defense officials in Seoul say the troops would infiltrate South Korea and try to throw its defense into confusion if another war broke between the two countries.
The frontline deployment of special forces comes as South Korean increasingly suspects a North Korean submarine sank one of its warships along their tense western sea border on March 26.
Forty died and six went missing in the sinking that has sparked national mourning and led President Lee Myung-bak to vow a stern response to those responsible.
North Korea denies its involvement in what has become one of South Korea's worst naval disasters, but it is coming under growing suspicion because its history of attacks.
The latest attack took place in November last year, when a North Korean patrol boat shot at a South Korean one and retreated in flames after taking heavy fire.
South and North Korea remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.