North Korea Urged U.S. Changes Citing Talks With SouthSangwon Yoon
North Korea called on the U.S. to stop isolating it politically, militarily and economically, citing the totalitarian regime’s recent engagement with South Korea as proof of a commitment to relieving tensions.
In dealings with neighboring countries starting last month, North Korea participated in the first high-level talks with South Korea since 2007, allowed family reunions between the two Koreas and made plans to hold talks next week with Japan for the first time since November 2012.
“The DPRK did not hesitate to accept the request from South Korean authorities on holding the separated families’ reunion,” even though “in view of the harsh conditions of the political environment,” the situation “was not mature yet,” Ri Tong Il, a top North Korean diplomat at the United Nations, told reporters yesterday in New York. He referred to his country by the acronym of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The U.S. must “roll back” its “hostile policies” and stop raising tensions through continued military drills with South Korea and orchestrating “conspiracies” on the North’s human rights situation, Ri said.
His country’s relations with the U.S. have remained tense since 2012, when North Korea announced plans for long-range missile testing that led the U.S. to scuttle a food-aid deal.
The Obama administration has since enlisted China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, as its interlocutor, refusing to engage in direct talks until the North takes credible steps toward denuclearization.
Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday called for six-nation talks on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula to resume as soon as possible, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
In a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Xi cited the need to implement goals set out in a 2005 agreement -- a condition the U.S. has set for resumption of any direct engagement.
China is the host and convenor of the six-party talks, which include the U.S., Russia, Japan and the two Koreas. The negotiations began in 2003 and were last held in 2008. North Korea officially quit the process a year later, and revealed a new uranium enrichment facility in 2010.
Ri’s comments yesterday were part of a campaign waged by North Korean diplomats in Beijing, London, Moscow and Geneva, aimed at shifting the focus of discussion away from denuclearization, said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.
“We can presume that DPRK is not satisfied with the way Washington handles its approach to Korean peninsula issues,” Snyder said in an e-mail. “However, DPRK is not responding to U.S. calls for a return to denuclearization, nor has DPRK provided a viable solution to the Kenneth Bae case, which needs to be settled before one can imagine serious talks moving forward.”
The North has held Bae, a Korean-American missionary, since 2012, and in February rescinded an invitation for a U.S. human-rights envoy to travel to Pyongyang to discuss his release.
Investors are starting to bet that South and North Korea are heading toward reunification.
Shinyoung Asset Management this month opened the first South Korean fund focusing on equities that would benefit from a unified peninsular. The benchmark Kospi index rose to a two-week high yesterday, even after North Korea fired 46 short-range rockets over the weekend, and the Kospi 200 Volatility Index, a gauge of demand for protection against plunging shares, is trading near its record low in December, about half the level when the North detonated its first nuclear device in 2006.
Ri said the missile firings are justified as part of North Korea’s routine military exercises within its territorial land and waters.