S. Korea to send envoys to N. Korea
Published: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 12:55 a.m.
SEOUL, South Korea - South Korea pushed ahead Friday with efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea peacefully, saying it will send two envoys to the communist state next week for a new round of negotiations.
South Korea kept up the diplomatic pressure on its northern neighbor even though it couldn't persuade North Korean delegates at talks earlier Friday to commit to specific steps to ease the nuclear tensions with the United States.
South Korea urged direct dialogue to bridge the differences between Washington and Pyongyang, and the South's president-elect said he would propose a summit with reclusive Northern leader Kim Jong Il after taking office next month.
The United Nations nuclear agency, meanwhile, announced it will hold an emergency meeting to consider putting the dispute before the Security Council, spokesman Mark Gwozdecky said Friday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation governing board will meet Feb. 3 to discuss the issue. Formally notifying the Security Council that North Korea is in breach of its obligations under international nuclear accords could lead to economic sanctions or other punitive measures against Pyongyang.
In a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in Tokyo, Undersecretary of State John Bolton said, however, that a debate in the U.N. Security Council on North Korea does not mean sanctions will be imposed.
"The question of getting the matter into the Security Council is an entirely separate and very different question from whether or not sanctions at some point might be warranted," he said at a news conference.
North Korea has said sanctions would be tantamount to war.
Park Sun-sook, a spokeswoman for South Korea's presidential Blue House, said envoys from the South were being sent to the North to "find a peaceful resolution through direct dialogue between the South and the North."
North Korea announced the envoys' visit at the same time in a brief report carried by state-run news agency KCNA. The South is sending Lim Dong-won, a special adviser to President Kim Dae-jung and a former unification minister, and an envoy of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun.
South Korea had consulted with allies about sending the envoys, Park said. The two officials, who are expected to carry a letter from President Kim, will arrive in North Korea on Monday and stay two or three days.
The South is working to persuade the North to give up its nuclear development program. Pyongyang has expelled U.N. nuclear inspectors and pulled out of an anti-nuclear weapons treaty.
In an interview with CNN, Roh said he would propose a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il after taking office Feb. 25. Roh is a strong supporter of the reconciliation process between North and South.
"It'll solve the difficult problem," he said. "I think it's important to meet in person without any preconditions and have dialogues. And I don't really care about the form and ceremony of the encounter."
President Kim also said dialogue was the best way to resolve the standoff, noting that past U.S. presidents had held talks with the Soviet Union and China at the height of the Cold War.
The United States has said the dispute can be resolved peacefully and on Friday officials backed South Korea's calls for more dialogue.
"We think these dialogues serve as important channels to resolve issues of bilateral concern and to call upon North Korea to quickly and visibly respond to the international community's demands for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
In earlier Cabinet-level negotiations, the South had pushed the North to announce specific steps to defuse its standoff with Washington. In the end Seoul was only able to win a general pledge to resolve the dispute peacefully.
Still, the five-page joint statement was a step forward for the South, which sought to air concerns over Pyongyang's nuclear program at the high-level talks - the first in months between the two Koreas.
Both sides pledged to work toward reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula, which has been divided since 1945. Projects include cross-border rail and road links, as well as reunions of long-separated family members.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, meeting with European Union leaders in Athens on Friday, said South Korea had asked for support from the 15-nation bloc in resolving the conflict. His Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, also was in Athens and pledged Russia's assistance.
Separate talks on the transportation links stalled Friday in Pyongyang. Discussions were scheduled to end Saturday.
The North has been pushing for a nonaggression treaty with the United States. On Thursday, Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan, published an interview with a North Korean official who rejected U.S. security guarantees short of a treaty.
"Looking at the fundamentals of the current situation, it cannot be resolved by a document such as a mere presidential letter," Oh Sung Chul, a North Korean Foreign Ministry director, was quoted as saying.
The United States has said it could consider written security guarantees but only after North Korea gives up its nuclear programs. U.S. officials have ruled out a treaty, citing lack of congressional support.
A South Korean presidential envoy said Friday that North Korea's problems are chiefly internal, and wouldn't be solved by a nonaggression pact.
"Their problems lie in their system itself," Chung Dong-young said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Even if the United States gives them a guarantee of regime security, that doesn't make North Korea secure."
Chung said that once the nuclear issue is settled, South Korea will ask other nations to contribute aid for infrastructure, energy and agriculture in the North.
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