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N. Korea’s talks offer just a fig leaf for China, analyst says

North Korea's cancellation of a Wednesday summit with the South shows that the communist regime's commitment to the talks was fake, probably to ease China's participation in talks with the U.S. over the weekend, an noted Korea analyst says.

John McCreary says that the issue that stymied the meeting — who should head the delegations on each side — had been resolved at a weekend meeting at Panmunjom, the "peace village" that straddles the cease-fire line between the two countries.

"This looks like a set up," Mr. McCreary said, noting that the North previously had announced that a ministry-level official would lead its delegation. "The North clearly reneged on that commitment."

The timing of the cancellation "strongly suggests the North had no intention of keeping the agreement one day longer than needed" to provide a fig leaf to Beijing during the California summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said.

In the run up to the weekend summit, several senior U.S. officials visited Beijing to urge China to intercede with North Korea in the interests of stability in Northeast Asia.

Pyongyang has conducted illegal missile and nuclear weapons tests in the past seven months, and engaged in vitriolic rhetoric and military brinksmanship during military exercises on both sides of the peninsula.

Prompted by China, North Korea launched what some analysts saw as a charm offensive last week, and offered the talks at Panmunjom — the first minister-level contact between the two Koreas since 2007.

The scheduled talks collapsed Tuesday after the North pulled out, saying the South's proposal was a "grave insult."

"Stumbling over trivial slights with great indignation is the North's shopworn way of avoiding a commitment it never intended to keep," Mr. McCreary said.

Wednesday's talks were supposed to cover cross-border trade and economic issues, including reopening two joint ventures — an industrial park and a tourist resort — that have been important sources of hard currency for the Pyongyang regime.

"If the North really needs the cash, this problem will be resolved soon," said Mr. McCreary, who writes the open-source intelligence e-letter NightWatch for K-Force Government Solutions Inc. "If it is not fixed soon, the inference would be strong that North Korea was obliging China for the sake of the [California] summit."

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About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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