January 17, 2011 11:47
Cheong Wa Dae has poured cold water on hopes that stalled six-party talks about North Korea's nuclear program will be on track to resume after the leaders of the U.S. and China meet on Wednesday. The presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security Chun Young-woo in an interview on U.S. television Friday said the North must first apologize for sinking the Navy corvette Cheonan and shelling Yeonpyeong Island last year.
In the interview, which will be broadcast on PBS across the U.S. ahead of the U.S.-China summit, Chun warned North Korea would face "a shortcut to its demise" if it maintains its current course of concentrating spending on nuclear weapons and missile development. He added that "internal energy" is building up in North Korea seeking change, and that this could lead to a very serious situation.
Chun said the North Korean regime could collapse much sooner than people might think if it refuses to accept international demands to scrap its nuclear weapons in exchange for economic assistance.
The interview took place shortly after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Seoul on Thursday and said, "When or if North Korea's actions show cause to believe negotiations could be productive or conducted in good faith, then we could see a return" to the six-party disarmament talks."
Observers say Chun's comments send a message to China, Japan and the U.S. that the North Korean regime is feeling intense pressure from within and that it could be prompted to change if pushed just a little harder.
PBS said that the comments run counter to what most people expect -- that South Korea would respond positively to North Korea's recent calls for dialogue -- and shows its firm position on North Korean affairs. It added Seoul believes the North is approaching collapse and that its policies toward Pyongyang are governed by that view.
Chun said international sanctions against North Korea implemented following the provocations hampered the regime's efforts to earn hard currency, which helped to show the international community North Korea's true face.
He added Seoul has not been able to "hold North Korea responsible for rejecting denuclearization" and insisted Seoul will not bend easily to the North's demands.
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