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NORTH KOREA NEWSLTTER NO. 218 (July 12, 2012)

Seoul Seeks to Convince ARF to Back U.N. Condemnation of N.K.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea is trying to convince Asia's biggest security gathering to support a U.N. statement strongly condemning North Korea's April rocket launch, when it convenes an annual session in Cambodia this week, officials said on July 9.

   Foreign ministers of 27 Asia-Pacific nations are scheduled to meet in Phnom Penh on July 12 for the two-day meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) that brings together North Korea and all other key players on security issues.

   The forum, hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has served as an important venue for discussions on North Korea. It will mark the first time that high-level diplomats from the two Koreas could have face-to-face meetings on the sidelines since the December death of North Korea's long-time ruler, Kim Jong-il.

   South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan will join the forum and his North Korean counterpart, Pak Ui-chun, is also due to arrive in Phnom Penh on July 11, Seoul officials said.

   Officials have said South Korea has no plans to hold a bilateral meeting with North Korea during the ARF, but left the door open for an inter-Korean contact organized by an "unofficial channel."

   Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambition have been frozen since April, when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket that failed moments after lift-off. The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the launch as a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile and warned the North of further sanctions if it conducts another missile launch or nuclear test.

   "We want the ARF to adopt a chairman's statement supporting the U.N. Security Council statement over North Korea's missile launch," said a senior official at Seoul's foreign ministry.

   He declined to elaborate on the language South Korea wants to include in the document.

   The key to such a statement is support from Cambodia, which will chair the session, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

   The ARF statement is also expected to call for a resumption of the six-party talks that involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, the official said. Among those attending the ARF are top diplomats from the six nations.

   Besides North Korea, territorial disputes and diplomatic efforts to reduce tensions in the South China Sea are expected to dominate the ARF, ministry officials said.

   Asked about the possible inter-Korean meeting in Phnom Penh, the official replied, "We do not have plans to meet with North Korea for now, and as far as we know, there is no meeting planned between the U.S. and North Korea.

   "But, if the North Korean side proposes meeting us, we will have no reason to reject the proposal," he said.

   A trilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba is set for July 12 on the sidelines of the ARF, ministry officials said.
Following North Korea's botched rocket launch, South Korean officials have said it will be difficult for the six-party talks to resume this year, citing the upcoming presidential elections in both Seoul and Washington.

   Concerns persist that North Korea may soon conduct a third nuclear test to make up for its failed launch. The North's previous two rocket launches in 2006 and 2009 were followed by nuclear tests.


Inter-Korean Visits Drop 7 Percent This Year

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The total number of South and North Koreans visiting each other's country fell nearly seven percent in the first five months of 2012 from a year earlier, the Seoul government said on July 10, as tensions persist over the North's deadly attacks on the South in recent years.

   A total of 47,432 South Koreans visited North Korea in the January-May period, while no North Koreans visited the South, according to data from the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

   The figure is down 6.9 percent from the same period last year, when the number of inter-Korean visits reached 50,925, including 13 North Koreans who visited the South.

   South and North Koreans are not allowed to visit each other's country without permission from their respective governments, as the two sides remain in a technical state of war following the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

   The vast majority of South Korean visitors, or 47,404, traveled to the North for business, while the remaining 28 entered the socialist state for humanitarian projects or socio-cultural exchanges, the ministry said.

   The number of inter-Korean visits peaked at 186,775 in 2008 before dropping to 120,862 in 2009 and 116,047 last year. The downward trend was apparently triggered by the shooting death of a South Korean tourist in North Korea in 2008, and the North's two deadly attacks on the South in 2010.

   A total of 50 South Koreans, mostly soldiers, were killed in the separate attacks on a South Korean warship and border island.