South Korea has asked the U.S. not to hold talks with North Korea before the cause of the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan is determined.
This is expected to derail the planned visit to the U.S. by North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.
A South Korean official yesterday said, Weve asked U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell to postpone North Korea-U.S. talks for a while. If relations between North Korea and the U.S. improve at a time when inter-Korean relations worsen due to unexpected events such as the sinking of the Cheonan, Seoul could feel isolated. We have informed the U.S. government of such worries.
The U.S. has accepted our request and deferred its issuance of an entry visa for a key North Korean figure who had planned to visit the U.S.
Campbell offered condolences over the Cheonan mishap April 2 to Wi Sung-lak, South Koreas chief nuclear negotiator, saying, Well do anything to help our South Korean friends, who have recently suffered a lot.
Another South Korean government source said, The U.S. has participated in efforts to find the cause of the Cheonans sinking. (South Korea) will be left with an egg on its face if North Korea turns out to have attacked the Cheonan. To avoid such an awkward situation, Washington decided against speaking with Pyongyang before the cause of the incident is confirmed.
The U.S. has declined an entry visa for Kim, who was invited to the U.S. by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and the Korea Society, citing Pyongyangs resistance to return to the six-party talks.
Before the Cheonan disaster, North Korea had announced that it will participate in preliminary meetings for the six-party talks on the condition of holding additional talks with the U.S. Washington also prepared for talks with Pyongyang on the premise that the latter would return to the six-party talks.
A South Korean government official said, We just asked the U.S. to postpone its talks with North Korea until the cause of the incident is determined. It just wants to consider all possibilities.
Others say, however, that South Korea made the request because it is seriously considering the possibility that North Korea attacked the Cheonan.