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Recent inter-Korean thaw could help resume long-stalled disarmament talks on N. Korean nukes

2013/08/20 13:32

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- On-going signs of improvement in inter-Korean relations could help efforts to reopen the long-stalled disarmament talks over North Korea's nuclear programs, a high-ranking government official said Tuesday.

"Recent progress in the inter-Korean relations could have a positive impact on the environment for resuming the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs," the official, well-versed in North Korean nuclear issues, said on the condition of anonymity.

The North, having concluded that improving relations with the South is beneficial to its national interest, may move on to think likewise that discarding its nuclear arms can benefit the country, the official said, adding that such a shift can help in resuming the dialogue.

"The North may be feeling some pains and paying some costs" as their past nuclear tests and missile launch had to come at the costs of friendly ties with China and relations with the international community, he said.

Last week, the two Koreas reached a dramatic agreement to reopen their jointly run factory park in the North Korean city of Kaesong. The Kaesong Industrial Park has remained shuttered since April when the countries closed the last symbol of inter-Korean conciliation amid high tensions.

In line with the North's growing intention to engage with neighbors, the member countries are scurrying to revive the six-party talks, designed to persuade the North to discard its nuclear arms, seen as a grave threat to the regional security, in return for food and energy aid as well as other diplomatic incentives.

The six-nation dialogue, involving the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, has been stalled since late 2008 when the North walked out of the talks in protest against the United Nations' condemnation of its satellite activities.

The six-party talks could resume at any time if the countries are sure that progress will be made in disarmament efforts, but without that certainty, their resumption is not likely to take place, the official said.

South Korea will make efforts to study the detailed stance of the North over the six-party talks' resumption, he noted.

Referring to the South Korean nuclear envoy's meeting with the Russian counterpart in Moscow last week, the official said that Russia expressed its strong stance that it will never tolerate North Korea's possession of nuclear arms during the bilateral meeting.

North Korea's point man on nuclear issues, Kim Kye-gwan, visited Russia in early July and rallied Russia's support to resume the disarmament talks.