January 11, 2010 in News
By Simon Martin
January 10, 2010
SEOUL — North Korea called Monday for talks on a treaty to formally end the Korean War, saying it wants better ties with the United States and an end to sanctions before pushing ahead with nuclear disarmament.
The foreign ministry statement was the first time the North has publicly stated its position on the disarmament negotiations since US envoy Stephen Bosworth visited Pyongyang last month.
Bosworth was trying to persuade the communist state to return to the six-nation talks it abandoned last April, a month before staging a second nuclear test. No firm agreement was reached.
Monday’s statement said “repeated frustrations and failures” in the talks — which began in 2003 and group the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan — showed the need to build confidence among parties concerned.
“If confidence is to be built between the DPRK (North Korea) and the US, it is essential to conclude a peace treaty for terminating the state of war, a root cause of the hostile relations, to begin with,” said the statement carried by official media.
The North has long called for a treaty to officially end the 1950-53 conflict, which terminated only with an armistice, leaving the parties technically at war. A US-led United Nations force fought for the South and China backed the communist North.
Six-party agreements in 2005 and 2007 envisage talks on a peace treaty but only in return for full denuclearisation. The North said the peace pact should come first.
“The conclusion of the peace treaty will help terminate the hostile relations between the DPRK and the US and positively promote the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula at a rapid tempo,” it said.
The foreign ministry said talks on a peace pact could be held either at a separate forum or in the framework of the six-party talks.
“The removal of the barrier of such discrimination and distrust as sanctions may soon lead to the opening of the six-party talks,” it said.
The United Nations tightened weapons-related sanctions after the North’s nuclear test and missile launches last year.
Monday’s statement mentioned only a peace pact with the United States and Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor at Seoul’s Dongguk University, described it as unrealistic.
“I believe the US will not accept it as North Korea has long tried to exclude South Korea in such talks,” he told AFP.
“The proposal is aimed at taking the upper hand in future negotiations and securing more concessions when talks resume with the US or South Korea.”
However, Kim said Pyongyang might return to the six-party talks even though its statement carried preconditions.
The North reiterated that it would not have needed to develop nuclear bombs without what it sees as US hostility.
In a New Year editorial message it called for an end to hostile relations with the United States and vowed to work towards a nuclear-free peninsula.
South Korea has been sceptical of calls for early talks on a peace pact.
Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan has said the North may try to bring the issue into the six-party dialogue in an attempt to stall negotiations on scrapping its nuclear programme.
On Monday Robert King, the Obama administration’s new envoy on human rights in North Korea, said relations could only improve once Pyongyang improved its “appalling” rights record.
Baek Seung-Joo, of Seoul’s Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said the statement indicated the North was heading back towards the six-party talks.
“There exists a discrepancy between North Korea and the others, notably South Korea, in sequencing the tasks of denuclearisation and striking a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula,” he said.
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