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North-South Ministerial Meeting to Be Held in Pyongyang Today

North-South Ministerial Meeting to Be Held in Pyongyang Today

Posted September. 13, 2005 07:33,   


The government has put the issue of peace on the Korean peninsula on the official agenda of the 16th inter-Korean ministerial meeting slated for three days starting September 13. It is the first time the peninsula peace issue has been on the official agenda of any South-North dialogue.

Kim Cheon-Shik, the director general of the Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Bureau at the Ministry of Unification and spokesman for the South Korean delegation said in a news briefing on September 12, “Since the two Koreas have achieved a great deal of cooperation and reconciliation, it would be appropriate to focus on the issue of promoting peace on the peninsula in the 16th ministerial meeting.”

Why the Peace Issue?–

Kim said, “This round of ministerial meetings can be seen as a preliminary session before the two Koreas engage in full-fledged discussions about the promotion of peace on the peninsula following the resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue,” adding, “While dealing with the peace issue, whose scope is so wide, the more specific issue of the peace regime on the Korean peninsula will also be discussed.”

If the talks on the peace regime are successfully completed, they will be followed by discussions on the issue of changing the current armistice into a peace treaty. North Korea suggested that the two Koreas, the U.S. and China talk about the shift in the first phase of the fourth round of the six-party talks (July 26 – August 7).

The suggestion followed the country’s consistent demand for a DPRK-U.S. peace treaty that began in the third session of the fifth Supreme People`s Assembly, the North Korean parliament, in 1974. The demand is based on the North’s perception that the South is not entitled to sign the peace treaty since it is not a signatory to the armistice.

The Prospects for the Peace Talks-

Baek Seung-joo of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses said, “Behind North Korea’s obstinate calls for a peace treaty with the U.S. is the calculation that it is the only country on earth that can give security assurances to the North.” He predicted that the North would not easily accept the peace issue suggestion from South Korea.

In addition, since the presence of foreign troops will be inevitably mentioned in the discussions on the peace regime, the talks are highly likely to be stalled again. So far, North Korea has raised question as to why U.S. forces are needed on the Korean peninsula at a time when both countries are in the process of building a peace regime, and claimed that we should work together to realize the goal of mutual arms reduction and creating a nuclear-free Korea.

South Korea’s Participatory Government has a three-step strategy: first, resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and accelerating the peace process; second, expanding inter-Korean cooperation and laying the foundation of a peace regime; third, signing an inter-Korean peace treaty and establishing a peace regime. Under this plan, we will not be able to make progress in the discussion about a peace treaty unless the nuclear issue is resolved.

The 500th Meeting–

Today’s ministerial meeting will be the 500th inter-Korean dialogue since the first meeting on August 20, 1971.

In the meeting, the government also plans to deal with issues related to POWs, South Korean abductees living in the North, and the timetable for an inter-Korean senior military official meeting.

Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, the chief delegate will lead the South Korean delegation which consists of Vice Finance Minister Bahk Byong-won, Vice Minister of Culture and Tourism Bae Jong-shin, and two other high-ranking officials. Senior Cabinet Councilor Kwon Ho-ung will head the five-member North Korean delegation.

The South Korean delegation will leave the Office of South-North Dialogue in Samcheong-dong, Seoul at 10:00 a.m. and arrive in Pyongyang around 1:00 p.m. using a chartered flight.

Hyung-June Park lovesong@donga.com