N.Korea in Diplomatic Charm Offensive

      February 08, 2010 09:18

      North Korea is looking forward to a flurry of diplomatic activities this week, dealing with envoys from China and the UN and discussing with South Korea the resumption of package tours to Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong. It has also delivered a message of reconciliation to the U.S. with the release of Korean-American human rights activist Robert Park.

      Wang Jiarui, the head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department, met his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-il on Saturday. He will reportedly meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on Monday to deliver a letter from Chinese President Hu Jintao.

      Wang Jiarui (left), head of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department, arrives in Pyongyang in this photo released by the [North] Korean Central News Agency on Saturday. /KCNA-Newsis

      Kim Jong-il in October last year, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Pyongyang, hinted his country could return to six-party nuclear talks. It remains to be seen whether he will send a similar message this time too.

      A senior South Korean government official said, "During Wen's visit last year, China urged the North to return to the six-party talks, and this year it has started a fresh approach to the North."

      The North is most likely to attempt a deal with China to receive economic aid in return for progress in the nuclear issue.

      A UN delegation led by Lynn Pascoe, the UN under secretary-general for political affairs, will visit the North from Tuesday through Friday, the first such visit since 2005.

      Pascoe carries a letter from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He has said he is willing to discuss "all issues of mutual interest and concern in a comprehensive manner."

      The North is boxed in by UN Security Council sanctions. Another government official said, "It seems the North is trying to get the UNSC sanctions diluted by seeking cooperation with the UN."

      Inter-Korean talks on Monday, meanwhile, discuss the resumption of tours to Mt. Kumgang and Kaesong, in the first cross-border dialogue on the matter since the fatal shooting of a South Korean tourist in July 2008.

      The North spent a couple of weeks ratcheting up tension by lobbing artillery shells into the West Sea near the maritime border with South Korea, but it seems desperate for economic aid due to growing unrest over its disastrous currency reform in December. Kim Jong-il has recently stressed the need to feed his people, an indication how bad things have got as a result of sanctions and the failed reform.

      Resumption of package tours to Mt. Kumgang would guarantee cash flow. A government source said, "North Korea's spring food shortage has something to do with its diplomatic offensives. It's hard to tell when it will return to the six-party talks, but it seems more and more likely that it will return."

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