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Is Big Deal Imminent Between 2 Koreas?

Posted March. 02, 2007 07:02,   


The South and North stood face to face regarding the timing of a rice aid agreement on March 1, the third day of the 20th ministerial meeting between the two Koreas.

Senior representatives of the two Koreas met at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang on that day, but failed to reach an agreement on when to hold a committee meeting for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation to deal with rice aid issues.

The North side strongly requested to hold the committee for the Promotion of Economic Cooperation in Pyongyang in March and to hold Red Cross talks to discuss reunions of dispersed family members and humanitarian aid as early as possible.

However, the South wants to hold the committee meeting in April with the intention of seeing if the North carries out the provisions of the February 13 agreement made at the six-party talks (the agreement on initial action for the implementation of the September 19 joint statement regarding the abolition of the North Korean nuclear program) before deciding the amount and timing of rice aid provisions.

The government thinks that if they decide to provide rice aid before the North shuts down the nuclear facilities and accepts IAEA inspectors’ verification results, they cannot avoid being criticized for “hasty leniency.”

Meanwhile, the North seems to be in a hurry to hold the committee meeting, insisting that even if the committee agrees on the provision of rice aid in March, the rice would be delivered to the North after April 13, considering the time to be taken for shipping and delivery.

Also, the North has asked for 350,000 tons of fertilizer this year, as well; delivery of 100,000 tons of fertilizer has been suspended ever since last year’s missile launches.

However, the South plans to provide part of that and link the timing of providing additional fertilizer aid with the North’s implementation of denuclearization actions.

The South is requesting a restart of the construction of an interview house for dispersed families, with the goal of getting dispersed families to meet face to face in April. However, it is unclear if the two sides will be able to reach an agreement because the North is making it conditional on an agreement on rice and fertilizer aid

Meanwhile, Unification Minister Lee Jae-jeong met Kim Yong Nam, President of the Presidium of the DPRK Supreme People`s Assembly, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, the equivalent of the South’s National Assembly building, on the same day. The meeting was held at the South’s request.

This is the third time that the South Korean senior representatives of the ministerial meeting met Kim Yong Nam, following former Unification Minister Park Jae-kyu in 2000 and former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun in 2002.

Before that, the two Korea’s delegations held a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the 3.1 Independence Movement at the Koryo Hotel in the morning. Although it was informal, the meeting was recorded as a formal event of the South Korean government, which was held in Pyongyang for the first time. The North Korean delegation did not attend the ceremony due to the discord surrounding the terms to be used at the ceremony, according to joint news reporters in Pyongyang.