- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2006

SEOUL — Diplomatic maneuvers to resolve the North Korean missile crisis collapsed yesterday, with Chinese talks in Pyongyang fruitless, the U.S. chief negotiator flying home empty-handed and a North Korean Cabinet-level delegation walking out of talks with South Korean counterparts.

After a week of shuttle diplomacy, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill left the region yesterday.

“The Chinese are as baffled as we are,” Mr. Hill told the Associated Press in Beijing. “They sent a good delegation up to Pyongyang, showed a real interest in trying to work with the DPRK, but it does not appear to have been reciprocated.”

The DPRK, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is the official name for North Korea.

Meanwhile, in the South Korean port of Pusan yesterday, North-South Cabinet-level meetings broke down a day earlier than scheduled.

South Korea had attempted to persuade the Northern delegation to resume a moratorium on missile tests and return to six-party nuclear talks.

The Chinese delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, made a similar appeal during a visit to the North Korean capital. Beijing’s delegation is expected to return home today.

Pyongyang has boycotted the six-nation talks, which involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, citing U.S. financial sanctions against Banco Delta Asia in Macau.

After a U.S. Treasury Department warning last year that the bank was being used for illicit North Korean activities, Macau monetary authorities froze North Korean accounts at the bank.

The North requested 500,000 tons of fertilizer from South Korea at the Pusan talks on Wednesday, only to be rebuffed by South Korea’s point man at the negotiations, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok.

“What [Mr. Lee] said before and during the talks was that there could be no additional rice or fertilizer aid until there is some solution to exit this missile crisis. That’s where we stand at this point,” an official from the Unification Ministry said.

In Tokyo, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said it would press ahead with a prompt U.N. Security Council Resolution vote against North Korea.

Tokyo had agreed to delay the vote while diplomatic initiatives were in play.

“I think the U.S. and Japanese governments have to do something because of domestic pressure,” said Andrei Lankov, a Russian specialist on North Korean affairs who teaches at Seoul’s Kookmin University.

The United States, Britain and France support Tokyo’s resolution, which would punish North Korea for its missile launches. China is expected to veto the Japanese resolution if it is submitted as is.

Should Tokyo and Washington impose bilateral sanctions, Pyongyang appears well-placed to ride them out.

“They could react bilaterally, but this will not cause major damage to North Korea, as North Korea depends essentially on aid from China and South Korea,” Mr. Lankov said.

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