- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

1:24 p.m.

SEOUL — North Korea’s No. 2 leader pledged his country’s commitment today to giving up its nuclear program amid intensifying diplomacy aimed at implementing Pyongyang’s pledge to disarm.

“The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the dying wish” of the country’s late founding President Kim Il-sung, Kim Yong-nam, president of parliament’s executive council, said in Pyongyang during a visit from a high-level South Korean delegation.

The North “will make efforts to realize it,” he said.

At the meeting, South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung pressed the North to implement a Feb. 13 pledge made with the United States and four other countries to take initial steps to disarm.

“It is important to make efforts to ensure that South and North Korea cooperate and six countries each assume their responsibilities,” Mr. Lee said.

Kim Yong-nam also called on the Koreas to cooperate to achieve the reunification of the peninsula, which was divided in the wake of World War II and still remains technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire.

Mr. Kim also repeated the North’s calls for inter-Korean collaboration, an idea South Korea has dismissed as a ploy to drive a wedge in Seoul’s alliance with Washington.

This week’s Cabinet-level talks between the North and South — the highest-level regular contact between the Koreas — are the first in seven months. The talks resumed after North Korea’s agreement last month in Beijing to shut down its main nuclear reactor within 60 days in exchange for aid.

Earlier today, North Korean negotiators appealed for aid from the South, but Seoul appeared resistant to promising any major assistance until Pyongyang keeps its pledge to start dismantling its nuclear program.

“The North side has brought up the issue of humanitarian aid,” a South Korean official told reporters in Pyongyang, where talks between the two Koreas stretched into a third day.

However, the official, indicating the South’s reluctance to provide the North with badly needed supplies, said that a draft agreement between the two sides “does not specifically mention rice and fertilizer aid.”

South Korea regularly sent aid to the impoverished North until last July, when Pyongyang test-fired a series of missiles, prompting a halt in shipments. Relations between the two countries further soured after the North tested a nuclear weapon in October.

Meanwhile, the countries involved in the nuclear talks — the Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States — have begun preparations to implement the disarmament pact.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that U.S. and North Korean officials will meet in New York next Monday and Tuesday to discuss normalizing relations, one of the steps to be taken under the nuclear deal.

Also today, the State Department’s No. 2 diplomat, John Negroponte, arrived in Japan for a tour expected to focus on the North Korea nuclear issue that will also take him to South Korea and China.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon also left for Washington today for talks on North Korea with his counterpart, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide