Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Seoul Rolls Up Sleeves for 6-Party Nuke Talks

After watching the game calmly in the backcourt for weeks, Seoul has now rolled up its sleeves to facilitate the fourth round of six-party talks aimed at resolving Pyongyang’s nuclear standoff, sending top negotiators to neighboring countries.
South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuck will make visits to China and Japan from today throughout the week to discuss ways to resume the stalled process of the multilateral dialogue, a top Seoul diplomat said.
``Chief delegate Lee will visit Beijing on Aug. 24-25 and Tokyo on Aug. 26-27 to discuss the nuclear issue,’’ Cho Tae-yong, Seoul’s deputy chief negotiator, told reporters. ``We’re also setting up a schedule for visits to the United States and Russia.’’
Cho explained they would have ``frank and in-depth’’ discussions on the fourth round of six-way talks, anticipated in September, and working-group talks that are expected to come before the main session will involve deputy chief negotiators.
He added Seoul believed the fourth round of talks would be held in Beijing by the end of next month as agreed upon by all the six parties in the previous talks in June, despite ``the reluctant attitude of North Korea.’’
Lee’s back-to-back visits to the neighboring nations show Seoul’s anxiety about the stalled nuclear talks as the six nations involved have been failing to decide the timeline and other details for the fourth round of talks and the working-group meeting.
``We’ve been waiting for positive results as other nations, including the host China, have tried to decide on the schedule,’’ a diplomatic source, familiar with the Beijing talks, told The Korea Times on a customary condition of anonymity.
``But now we have become unable to wait and see any longer,’’ the official added, citing North Korea’s high rhetoric against the U.S. in recent days.
Since its top negotiator’s visit to Beijing last week, Pyongyang has been upping the ante against George W. Bush’s U.S. administration, arguing its ``hostile’’ policy is preventing the working-group talks from taking place.
North Korea even called Bush a ``tyrant that puts Hitler in the shade,’’ reiterating it cannot attend the working-group talks because of Washington’s hostile policy.
The nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002 when U.S. officials claimed that Pyongyang had admitted it had a secret program to enrich uranium for use in weapons. This was in addition to a separate program for producing plutonium that was frozen under a 1994 U.S.-North Korea accord but has since been resumed.

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