Talks on North Korea should begin soon: US envoy

Friday, January 7, 2011

BEIJING - On North Korea’s request for negotiations to end the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Obama administration envoys reportedly met with their Chinese counterparts to initiate six party talks, with one saying that he is hopeful that serious talks on Pyongyang would begin soon.

According to The New York Times, the comment by Stephen W. Bosworth, the special representative for North Korea policy, underscores a shift in the American approach to North Korea, away from two years of what the administration called “strategic patience” marked by a refusal to engage with the North.

Bosworth and Sung Kim, the United States envoy to the suspended six-party talks, met in Beijing with Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun and Wu Dawei, China’s representative to the talks, as well as Wang Jiarui, a senior foreign affairs official in the Communist Party.

With China’s President, Hu Jintao, scheduled to visit Washington in two weeks, the US is also reportedly trying to organise six party talks among North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

China, being the closest allay of North Korea, has come under rising pressure from the United States and domestic critics to take a harder line toward the North after its November 23 artillery attack on a South Korean island, which killed two South Korean marines and two civilians last year.

On Thursday, South Korea rejected North Korea’s offer on Wednesday of “unconditional” peace talks “anytime and anywhere, letting bygones be bygones,” the paper said. Later Pyongyang again called for dialogue and a relaxation of tensions “as soon as possible.”

In reply, South Korean officials quickly pointed out that the recent Pyongyang’s statement followed a pattern of provocative acts followed by calls for talks that sought concessions.

Relations between both the countries appears to be more strained than at any time since the end of the Korean War in 1953. In March, a torpedo attack attributed to North Korea sank a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors. North Korea has denied responsibility.

In November, Pyongyang revealed the existence of a modern and previously unknown uranium enrichment facility. After that, North Korea carried out lethal attack on the South’s Yeonpyeong Island.

However, when the South responded with more military exercises, the North stopped retaliation. (ANI)

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