South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in a Wednesday speech called on North Korea to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions that forbid it from pursuing nuclear weapons efforts, Reuters reported (see GSN, Aug. 14).
"Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was agreed on between the South and North," the South Korean leader said in broadcast remarks celebrating the 67th anniversary of Korean freedom from Japan. "It has to be strictly complied with as it also constitutes an international obligation under U.N. Security Council resolutions," Lee continued.
"On the basis of it, the South, along with the international community, is ready and willing to help the North," he said.
"Pyongyang has also come to a situation where it has to look straight at reality and consider a transformation. ... We will watch carefully for the possible changes," Lee continued.
Seoul has been watching for signs the new Kim Jong Un government might be less hostile and more open to reform than the regime of Kim's father and predecessor Kim Jong Il, who died in December (Sung-won Shim, Reuters, Aug. 15).
Meanwhile, Japan and North Korea are slated in late August to convene their first official bilateral meeting in four years, Agence France-Presse reported, noting that the talks represent one of the most notable foreign posture moves yet of the Kim Jong Un regime.
"There are several issues between Japan and North Korea and after having [lower-level informal] discussions we have decided to hold intergovernmental talks soon," Japanese government Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said to journalists.
"We decided that preparatory talks will be held on Aug. 29 in Beijing" where the agenda for subsequent two-way talks is to be negotiated, he said.
North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens in past decades has remained a point of tension between the two states.
"We have been working based on the principle of settling the unfortunate past and on restoring normal relations," Fujimura said.
Japan has made the United States and South Korea aware of the coming meeting, he said.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the Obama administration did not object to the forthcoming Japan-North Korea meeting.
Should the talks be productive it could lead to greater foreign engagement with the Kim Jong Un regime with the eventual goal being resumption of the paralyzed six-nation talks aimed at permanently shuttering North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. The aid-for-denuclearization negotiations that involve China, Japan, both Koreas, Russia, and the United States were last held in late 2008 (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Aug. 14).