Seoul Faces Balancing Act in N.Korea Policy

      August 25, 2009 12:26

      The U.S. official tasked with ensuring compliance with UN sanctions against North Korea met with senior South Korean officials in Seoul on Monday. Philip Goldberg arrived a day after a North Korean delegation met with President Lee Myung-bak in an apparent attempt to improve relations as the sanctions begin to bite.

      Goldberg reviewed Seoul's compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which was adopted after the North's nuclear test in May, with South Korea's top nuclear negotiator Wi Sung-lac and Deputy Foreign Minister Oh Joon. He also met relevant officials at the Ministries of Strategy and Finance and of Defense and the Bank of Korea.

      "Right now, we are concentrating on the implementation, and full implementation, of the resolution," Goldberg told reporters Monday. He said recent conciliatory signals from North Korea would be welcome if they lead to denuclearization but added sanctions including financial penalties for North Korean businesses and individuals involved in nuclear development will remain in place.

      A government official here said the U.S. "views the North's appeasement as designed to crack the firm cooperation system of the international community, which is why it's putting even more stress on cooperation from Seoul."

      U.S. envoy Philip Goldberg talks to the press at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Monday.

      Goldberg expressed support for cross-border business projects like package tours to Mt. Kumgang, whose resumption was the fruit of a meeting between Hyundai Group chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. "My assessment is that at the moment these are issues outside of that resolution," he said. "And there are economic and humanitarian developments that are taken into account in the resolution as well."

      However, the U.S. has frequently complained that the package tours are a major source of hard currency for the North and alleges that the money has been used in nuclear and missile development.

      But at this point, hopes to improve inter-Korean relations, which are essentially a question of giving Pyongyang financial aid, and international cooperation run in exactly opposite directions. "We must avoid any moves in inter-Korean relations that go against international joint efforts for denuclearization," warned Yun Duk-min, a professor at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. "The government needs to stick to the principles it has maintained if it isn't to be dragged around by the North's tactics."

      Kim Sung-han, a professor at Korea University, urged the government to start with humanitarian projects like reunions of families separated by the Korean War, but go slowly on economic assistance. "Based on that, we should try to persuade North Korea to return to the six-party nuclear talks, and once Washington-Pyongyang bilateral talks start [within that framework], we can move on to the tourism projects."

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