Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Cambodia Says North Korea Prepared to Return to Nuke Negotiations
North Korea's top diplomat on Saturday told his Cambodian opposite that his government is prepared to return to the long-paralyzed six-party nuclear talks, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, July 13).
In talking with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in Phnom Penh, North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun "clearly stated that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is ready to participate in the six-party talks," Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said to journalists.
Pak "did not talk about conditions [for the resumption of the nuclear talks] during the meeting," the spokesman continued.
The six-party talks encompass China, Japan, both Koreas, Russia and the United States. The aid-for-denuclearization negotiations were last held in December 2008. Seoul and Washington have said they will not return to the nuclear talks without concrete demonstrations by Pyongyang of commitment to irreversible nuclear disarmament such as mothballing of the regime's uranium enrichment effort.
North Korea used last week's ASEAN Regional Forum in Cambodia to assert its pursuit of nuclear weapons was justifiable due to the danger of a U.S. nuclear attack. The North also renewed its claim of a right to send long-range rockets into space. Pyongyang's failed rocket flight in April was roundly condemned by the U.N. Security Council for violating resolutions that prohibit the nation from using ballistic missile technology (Agence France-Presse/Google News, July 14).
Beijing is rumored to have demanded Pyongyang promise it will not detonate a third atomic device as a prior condition to any trip by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the Chinese capital, the Korea Herald reported on Sunday. The new leader assumed power in Pyongyang following the death in December of his father, Kim Jong Il.
The demand was put to senior North Korean Workers' Party official Kim Yong Il when he traveled to Beijing in late April. China is often viewed as having the most influence over North Korea as it provides much of the economic support that props up the Kim dynasty.
This past spring, surveillance satellites detected signs that North Korea was preparing for a third nuclear test. Pyongyang previously detonated nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009; a third test could advance its efforts to develop a warhead small enough to mount on a missile.
"Of course, China may expect that North Korea would stop additional provocations including the nuclear test, should he visit China. That is diplomatic common sense," an unidentified South Korean government official said to reporters. "(In my personal view), how Kim Jong Un can hold a summit right away when he did not ever meet any high-level Beijing officials? Another factor that could affect Kim’s visit to China would be the leadership handover in China slated for October."
Beijing is a leading force in efforts to revive the six-party talks. In the past, the Chinese government has favored returning to nuclear negotiations on an unconditional basis, which North Korea has also backed (Song Sang-ho, Korea Herald, July 15).
Meanwhile, the Sunday dismissal of the North's most senior military official is seen as a sign that Kim Jong Un and his inner circle are attempting to consolidate their rule, Reuters reported.
State-controlled media cited poor health as the official reason for the removal of Ri Yong Ho, who served as vice marshal and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. Ri is understood to have been an intimate of deceased ruler Kim Jong Il.
"This is a sudden move, one that you could call a purge," said Cho Min, a South Korea-based expert on the North Korean ruling elite.
"'Due to illness' has to be an excuse, I think," Dongguk University North Korea expert Kim Yong-hyun said to Reuters. "It is more likely the result of a power struggle that is shaping up in the Kim Jong Un regime" (Jack Kim, Reuters, July 16).
In an interview with the Yonhap News Agency, Seoul National University expert Chang Yong-suk said, "We cannot rule out the possibility that (Ri) was dismissed on account of Kim Jong Un's unsatisfactory grip on the military, or as a result of a power struggle in North Korea," the London Guardian reported.
Kim Jong Un's efforts to present himself as a strong military leader are seen as having suffered a setback as a result of the North's heavily promoted spring long-range rocket launch, which ended in an embarrassing failure when the rocket broke apart shortly after takeoff.
It is not yet clear whether the firing of Ri will have any impact on North Korea's "military first" posture, which was a cornerstone of Kim Jong Il's rule (Justin McCurry, London Guardian, July 16).
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