South Korea’s Nuclear Negotiator to Meet with Chinese Counterpart

Posted June 7th, 2011 at 10:05 pm (UTC-5)
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South Korea says its top envoy to nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea will visit China this week to meet with his counterpart.

South Korea's foreign ministry announced Tuesday that Wi Sung-lac will meet Thursday with China's representative to the six-party nuclear talks, Wu Dawei. The two are expected to discuss ways of reviving the stalled talks and inter-Korean relations.

The meeting comes amid renewed tensions between the two Koreas. Other parties in the disarmament talks, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, have said better relations between Seoul and Pyongyang are needed before the talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear arms programs can resume.

The last round of those talks was held in Beijing in December 2008.

North Korea has recently expressed a desire to return to the talks it abandoned in 2009 after the United Nations imposed tough new sanctions on Pyongyang for carrying out a nuclear test and test-firing a series of missiles. But the two sides have been in a bitter disagreement following North Korea's two deadly attacks on its neighbor last year.

The U.S. diplomat in charge of East Asian and Pacific affairs, Kurt Campbell, is due in Seoul Friday.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday that the North test-fired a short-range missile off its west coast last week in the first such launch in 19 months.

Yonhap quoted an intelligence source as saying Pyongyang fired the KN-06 missile into the Yellow Sea in the middle of last week, after apparently working on it to increase its range.

Meanwhile, a group of European Union officials is visiting North Korea to assess the food needs in the impoverished country, following a similar mission by the United States last month.

Pyongyang has appealed for international food aid, citing severe food shortages this year. But South Korea and the United States are skeptical about the food need amid concerns that the communist nation wants to stockpile supplies for next year's celebration of the 100th anniversary of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters Tuesday in Washington that the United States has not made any decision on whether to resume humanitarian aid to North Korea. He confirmed that one of the concerns is that the food could be diverted for other uses, instead of being distributed to the needy.