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China calls for resumption of six-party talks

By Paula Hancocks, CNN
updated 4:54 AM EDT, Mon September 19, 2011
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing Monday marks the six party talks' joint statement on North Korea.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Beijing Monday marks the six party talks' joint statement on North Korea.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • South Korea's new unification minister says he'll do all can to reopen talks
  • North Korean leader expressed willingness during meeting with Russia's president last month
  • North korean expert Andrei Lankov not hopeful of positive outcome

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- China is calling Monday for the resumption of six party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament two days before planned inter-Korean talks. "We are happy to see that there have been some new, positive interactions between the parties concerned surrounding the restart of the six party talks," Foreign minister Yang Jiechi told a seminar in Beijing. "The parties must seize these opportunities."

Yonhap news agency reports North Korea's nuclear envoy Ri Yong Ho, attending the same seminar as Yang, called for the unconditional resumption of talks. Ri and his South Korean counterpart Wi Sung-lac will meet in Beijing Wednesday for the second time this year. The two also met on the outskirts of the ASEAN conference in Bali, Indonesia back in July.

South Korea's new unification minister, Yu Woo-ik, made it clear in his inauguration speech Monday he would do all he could to reopen talks with the North. "With a stern but flexible attitude, the ministry will try to create an atmosphere for dialogue and untangle knots in relations," he told lawmakers.

The policy toward North Korea since President Lee Myung-bak took power in 2008 has been more hard-line than in previous years, linking economic aid to progress on nuclear disarmament, and although the official line is that the policy has not changed, it appears the stance has softened.

Six party talks on nuclear disarmament between the two Koreas, the US, Russia, Japan and China broke down in April 2009 when North Korea walked out after the United Nations Security Council issued a statement condemning the North's launch of a satellite. The international community believed it to be a missile test.

Pyongyang has in recent months been urging the resumption of the 6 party talks on nuclear disarmament in return for international aid. The US and South Korea both insist Pyongyang respect its past commitments to disarm before 6 party talks restart.

During a meeting last month with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was quoted as showing a willingness to impose a moratorium on his nuclear program, if talks resume.

Wednesday's talks have been welcomed by the United States as a further sign of easing tensions. High profile US-North Korean talks took place in New York in July. US Deputy State Department spokesman, Mark C. Toner told reporters Friday, "We would certainly welcome steps by the North Korean Government to improve inter-Korean relations, and as such, we would welcome a dialogue - further dialogue, rather, between North Korea and South Korea."

But not everyone is hopeful of a positive outcome from these talks. North Korean expert Andrei Lankov tells CNN, "It is positive that negotiations have begun again. However, there is zero chance that these negotiations will ever bring the officially intended result, that is, democratization of North Korea. North Korea is not going to surrender its nuclear weapons."

Lankov cites the example of Moammar Gaddafi, who gave up his nuclear program and has now been ousted from power by the Libyan people aided by NATO. Lankov says of Kim, "He saw how Gaddafi was betrayed, and he will not do it himself."

CNN's Steven Jiang contributed to this report.

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