South Korean and U.S. government officials believe North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is seeking to use renewed dialogue with the international community to consolidate his grip on power. A diplomatic source in Seoul on Wednesday said the reason the North recently held high-level talks with the U.S. in Beijing and sent Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to the U.S. to voice its willingness to resume six-party talks was "to stabilize Kim's leadership."
Kim appears to be betting on the improvement of relations with the U.S. because it will not only net him much-needed aid but also international prestige for the untested 29-year-old leader. The source said South Korean and U.S. analysts believe Kim Jong-un "still lacks the complete support of the military and is seeking to gain its trust."
The six-party talks, halted in 2008, involve South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan.
Ri attended a conference in New York co-sponsored by the Hanshin University Center for Peace and Public Integrity of South Korea, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation of Germany and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University. He was quoted as saying, "Unlike past generations, we want peace with the U.S. As long as I am the representative at the six-party talks, the terms agreed at the U.S.-North Korea high-level talks in February will be respected, so don't worry."
In the February meeting, North Korea agreed to abide by the armistice agreement with the South. Kim "probably felt it was necessary to improve relations with the U.S. not so much for economic reasons as for political reasons," a South Korean official said. "This is why Ri said as he left New York that nuclear monitors will soon be allowed back into North Korea."