ROK offers carrot to DPRK for talks

From Yonhap:
Seoul to resume aid for N. Korea as soon as six-party talks resume: minister

South Korea’s Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok said Friday his country would resume humanitarian assistance for North Korea as soon as it returns to international negotiations over its nuclear ambitions.

“(The government) plans to resume shipments of rice and fertilizer aid to the North if (the North) says it will return to the six-party talks,” Lee said in a special lecture for representatives of the presidential National Unification Advisory Council.

Lee had said the country could resume its humanitarian aid for the impoverished North when “signs of resumption” of the nuclear disarmament negotiations begin to emerge. But this is the first time the minister has explicitly offered to resume the assistance in return for Pyongyang’s return to the stalled talks.

Seoul suspended shipments of its regular humanitarian aid, which included rice and fertilizer, to the North shortly after the communist state test-fired seven ballistic missiles in early July.

The unification minister said he would not have suspended the government aid for North Korea, but he had no other options “to show our people’s firm stance against the North’s missile launches.”

Inter-Korean relations quickly deteriorated after Seoul refused to provide additional assistance to the North in retaliation for the missile tests. The minister said the government had no plans to revise its North Korea policy.

“It would be most ideal if we could have enough leverage on North Korea to tell it not to play with missiles and the North would listen to us. We are working to reach that day,” he said.

“I wish we could see a day when North Korea would decide not to develop nuclear weapons” due to South Korea’s opposition, he said. “But we have yet to reach that point.”

Pyongyang has been refusing to return to the nuclear talks, also attended by South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States, since November, citing what it claims to be U.S. hostility toward its regime.

The nuclear impasse has also brought challenges for the South Korea-U.S. alliance as the two remain apart on how to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiations.

Washington wants to maintain or increase pressure on the communist state so the North has no other option but to return to the negotiating table, while Seoul wishes to lure it back to the talks through carrots.

The unification minister acknowledged that differences exist between the two sides, but that the alliance was strong enough to iron out any differences.

“The United States cannot feel the same about North Korea as South Korea does because South Korea faces 1.1 million North Korean troops only 40 kilometers (from its capital) while the United States is thousands of kilometers away,” Lee said.

“Coordinating different views and narrowing differences is what cooperation is about,” he said.


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