DPRK-US engagement in 2011

TOPIC 1: NUCLEAR TALKS
(2011-10-24): U.S. and North Korea Begin Groundwork for Talks. According to the New York Times:

The United States and North Korea began two days of talks here on Monday that American officials have said will test the ground for a possible resumption of wider discussions on North Korea’s nuclear program.

A convoy of vehicles brought Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, to the United States mission in Geneva exactly on schedule at 10 a.m. for the first round of talks with a team of American negotiators led by President Obama’s special envoy for North Korea policy, Stephen W. Bosworth.

In a statement at the end of the first day of talks, Mr. Bosworth said: “I think we are moving in a positive direction. We have narrowed some differences, but we still have differences that we have to resolve.”

His comments came after a working dinner with the North Korean delegation that he described as “very positive.” He added: “I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but as I said, we have made some progress. But we have issues still to resolve, and we will work hard to do that.”

American officials said last week that the discussions were intended to determine whether North Korea was “serious about engaging in talks and fulfilling its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks and its nuclear, international obligations, as well as take concrete steps toward denuclearization.”

Comments on the talks by Lankov, Panetta and Snyder.

(2011-10-19) New York Times: The United States will resume nuclear talks with North Korea next week in Geneva. According to the New York Times:

The current American envoy, Stephen Bosworth, will be replaced by Glyn Davies, the United States ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman.

“It’s important to stress this is a change in personnel, not a change in policy,” he said during a regular State Department briefing.

Mr. Bosworth, 71, has divided his time between his Korea duties and his position as dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, near Boston. He held the preliminary negotiations in New York in July with a North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan. Both will take part in the Geneva meetings, set for Monday and Tuesday, along with Mr. Davies. The rarity of Mr. Kim’s comments had to do with their overall topic of his government’s nuclear program, but they were a restatement of Pyongyang’s well-known stance on his conditions to allow the resumption of the six-party talks, which have been stalled for years.

“Our principle position remains unchanged that the six-way talks should be quickly resumed without preconditions,” Mr. Kim said in a written interview with Itar-Tass, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. It was the reclusive North Korean leader’s third known interview with outside news media.

In his comments to Itar-Tass, Mr. Kim said that his government remained committed to a 2005 six-party agreement in which Pyongyang vowed to relinquish its nuclear assets in return for economic aid and a peace treaty and diplomatic ties with Washington.

That seemed almost to anticipate a remark by Mr. Toner, the State Department spokesman, who said that the Geneva talks were “a continuation of the exploratory meetings to determine if North Korea is prepared to fulfill its commitments under the 2005 joint statement of the six-party talks and its nuclear, international, obligations, as well as take concrete steps toward denuclearization.”

(2011-7-24) New York Times: Announcement of visit to US by Kim Kye-gwan

TOPIC 2: US SOLDIER REMAINS
(2011-11-3): According to the Korea Herald, the US is planning to offer the DPRK  $5.7 million for excavation work for remains of soldiers:

The U.S. Defense Department plans to offer some $5.7 million to North Korea for a project to search for and excavate the remains of the U.S. war dead in the communist country, Washington-based Radio Free Asia reported on Thursday.

Citing an email message from Pentagon’s publicity officer Carie Parker, it said that the money will be used to establish base camps for the work in North Pyongan Province and South Hamgyeong Province and also cover overhead expenses.

Parker also said that the amount of money is the same as what the U.S. offered for excavation works in Vietnam and Laos.

The U.S. reportedly plans to carry out the work to recover the remains of its troops, who were killed in the North during the 1950-53 Korean War, four times between spring and fall next year.

Since 1996, the U.S. has recovered the remains of some 220 soldiers through its excavation works.

Since 2005, it has suspended the work because of concerns over the security of its personnel there. But the U.S. and the North agreed to resume the work after their talks in Thailand last month.

(2011-10-22) Reuters: Following up on (2011-10-18) AFP, the US and DPRK have reached a deal on recovering the remains of US soldiers who died in the Korean War:

The recovery operations, the first since 2005, are expected to resume next year, the Pentagon said.

“Accounting for Americans missing in action is a stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue between the two countries,” the statement said.

Yet there has been growing speculation U.S. President Barack Obama, approaching the final year of his four-year term, may initiate talks with North Korea on curbing its nuclear ambitions and the remains recovery talks were seen as a hint at U.S. willingness to engage.

More than 7,900 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean War, with some 5,500 estimated to be buried in the reclusive North. Joint recovery efforts were halted in May 2005 over concerns about the uncertain environment created by North Korea’s nuclear programs.

The North has long sought to sign a peace treaty with Washington to formally end decades of enmity since the war, which ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

(2011-10-18) AFP: United States and North Korea began talks in Bangkok, Thailand, on resuming efforts to recover the remains of Americans killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. According to the article:

The US Department of Defense says more than 7,900 Americans are missing from the conflict, with 5,500 of those believed missing in North Korea.

Joint US-North Korean search teams, in 33 missions in the North from 1996 to 2005, recovered the probable remains of 229 of them.

But cooperation broke down in 2005 when the United States voiced concerns for the safety of its personnel as relations soured over North Korea’s nuclear programme.

The US delegation, which will include representatives from US Pacific Command and United Nations Command in Korea, will be led by Robert Newberry, deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs, the Pentagon said. It was unclear who was representing North Korea.

Here is the official statement by the US Department of Defense:

No. 884-11
October 17, 2011
POW/MIA Talks Begin with North Korean Officials

A delegation from the United States will meet in Bangkok on Oct. 18 to begin negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on resuming recovery of the remains of American servicemen missing in action from the Korean War.

Robert J. Newberry, deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/missing personnel affairs, will lead negotiations with a team including representatives from the Department of State, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the U.S. Pacific Command and the United Nations Command-Korea.

The talks will only address the issue of resuming remains recovery of missing U.S. servicemen from the Korean War. Accounting for Americans missing in action is a stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue between the two countries.

Of the approximately 83,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, more than 7,900 are from the Korean War with 5,500 of those believed to be missing in the DPRK.

(2011-8-9) Yonhap and New York Times: The United States said Monday that it has requested talks with North Korea on ways to search for the remains of American troops killed during the 1950-53 Korean War. On Friday, August 9, the DPRK announced an agreement to discuss how the U.S. could recover remains of American troops killed in the Korean War. According to the Washington Post:

The North’s state media, Korean Central News Agency, quoted an unnamed foreign ministry official Friday saying that Pyongyang had accepted the U.S. proposal to talk and that preparations for discussion had begun.
Relatives of the missing soldiers reacted to the news with hope.

In 1996, after negotiations, the U.S. military began excavations in North Korea to search for missing U.S. service members. Over nearly a decade, such operations yielded 229 sets of remains, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.

But of that number, only 87 have been identified and returned to families. Part of the problem was that many remains uncovered by North Korean workers were jumbled together, and the U.S. office struggled to sort them out.

Then in 2005, the United States stopped its recovery operations amid rising tension with the North over its unwillingness to disarm its nuclear capabilities. The six years of diplomatic gridlock since then have frustrated many family members.

And Thursday, just hours before North Korea’s agreement to talk about recovering remains, the United States pledged $900,000 in flood aid to the North.

TOPIC 3: FLOOD ASSISTANCE (AID & TRADE)
(2011-12-10) Yonhap offers data on the DPRK’s aid and trade coming from the USA:

Trade between the United States and North Korea reached US$2.45 million in October, a U.S. report showed Saturday.

The bilateral trade volume was comprised completely of aid goods offered by the U.S. to the communist state, the Voice of America (VOA) reported citing data compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

(2011-8-18) Washington Post: US to provide $900,000 in emergency relief supplies to North Korea after devastating floods. See more here.


TOPIC 4: NON-GOVERNMENT EXCHANGES
(2011-12-4) Mainichi (Japan): US Security experts return from visit to the DPRK:

A group of U.S. nuclear and Korean affairs experts completed a five-day visit to North Korea on Saturday, but one member said the group did not visit the country’s main nuclear complex in Yongbyon.

“We did not visit. That’s all I can say,” Charles Ferguson, president of the Federation of American Scientists, told reporters at Beijing airport when asked whether the group had visited Yongbyon where North Korea is building a light-water nuclear reactor to be fueled by low-enriched uranium.

Ferguson and another member, Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official in charge of North Korean affairs who currently is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, declined to comment on the trip, including who they met in Pyongyang and what kind of talks they had.

During their trip, North Korea reported brisk progress in building a light-water reactor and producing enriched uranium.

(2011-8-6) Yonhap: N. Korean visitors to U.S. up over 50 pct in first half of 2011. Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing data from the Department of Homeland Security, said 139 North Korean nationals entered the country during a six month period this year, up from 89 tallied in the same period last year.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), citing data from the Department of Homeland Security, said 139 North Korean nationals entered the country during a six month period this year, up from 89 tallied in the same period last year.

It said that despite the drop in official contacts between Washington and Pyongyang, and a general cooling off in bilateral relations, there was a rise in the inflow of North Korean nationals into the country.

The radio station said the U.S. State Department mainly issued short term, non-immigration, commercial B1 or B2 tourism visas to the North Korean visitors.

(2011-6-24) Delegation visit: KCNA delegation visits US.

(2011-6-14) Delegation visit: North Korean Taekwondo team tours US for second time.

(2011-3-26) Delegation visit: North Korean economic delegation visits US.

(2011-2) Delegation visit: Last February, a North Korean delegation comprised mostly of scientists traveled to the U.S. to attend academic seminars and to discuss the exchange of science and technology between the two countries. The North’s scientists delegation was headed by Hong So-hon, president of Kimchaek University of Technology.

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