June 10, 2011 09:08
North Korea's General Bureau of Reconnaissance appears to have seized the initiative in dealing with South Korea. The bureau was behind the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and oversees all espionage operations against the South and is now thought to be orchestrating Pyongyang's tactic of alternately engaging and pressuring South Korea.
One representative from the bureau's policy department was also at secret inter-Korean talks last month, according to a South Korean intelligence official who was there. "Since our main concern was an apology" for the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last year, "it was necessary to contact the North Korean military, especially the General Bureau of Reconnaissance."
On Thursday, an official with the bureau told the state media, "If the South refuses to reveal the truth, we will release recordings of the contact." The official said there were three secret meetings with South Korean officials since May 9, and the presidential secretary for national security strategy Kim Tae-hyo tried to give the North Korean officials an envelope filled with money.
North Korea revealed the secret contacts on June 1, going as far as to name the South Korean officials who were present at the meeting and saying they "disgraced themselves" by offering money. Seoul has admitted offering cash but says this was only to compensate the North Korean officials for costs incurred by relocating the talks from Southeast Asia to Beijing.
A Unification Ministry official said the South has no tape recordings of the meetings. "If a recording does exist as the North claims, we're urging them to reveal the entire content rather than distorting the truth." Another government official said, "We expected the North to step up its threats, as it usually does. It was already diplomatically unprecedented and irrational to reveal the secret contact, and secretly recording such a meeting is also unacceptable."
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