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How Aggressive Will P`yang Get on Inter-Korean Summit?

Posted January. 04, 2010 08:07,   


Experts predict North Korea will seek dialogue officially or unofficially with South Korea on an inter-Korean summit, following two secret contacts in October and November last year.

Kim Yong-hyeon, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said, “The North seeks to gain the upper hand in discussing an inter-Korean summit and to pressure the South Korean government,” adding, “To revive its economy, North Korea needs South Korea’s assistance rather than solely depending on China.”

South Korean Labor Minister Yim Tae-hee held secret talks with Kim Yang Gon, chairman of the North`s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, in Singapore in last October. The South Korean Unification Ministry also held a contact with its North Korean counterpart in November last year.

Seoul’s official stance is that it is in no hurry to hold an inter-Korean summit. A ranking foreign affairs and national security official said Sunday, “I understand there are no specific steps being taken now. Pyongyang has sent an overture but we’ll wait and see how it behaves.”

He also reconfirmed President Lee Myung-bak’s stance on his “grand bargain” proposal for a comprehensive resolution of the North Korean nuclear standoff, saying the North must first accept the offer and resolve lingering humanitarian issues such as South Korean prisoners of war and abductees being in the North.

President Lee announced this stance in a TV forum Nov. 27 last year.

Many in the South Korean government, however, say this year, the third of the Lee administration, is an opportune time for an inter-Korean summit. Hence, Pyongyang will likely take a concessionary move on its nuclear program and the POW and abductee issue. Seoul is also expected to make proactive preparatory contact with Pyongyang for a summit.

In its report “Appraisal of the Security Environment in 2009 and Outlook for 2010,” the (South) Korea Institute for Defense Analysis said, “South Korea needs to take strategic intervention to a certain degree to help the North change its stance, including persuading Pyongyang through diverse routes including an inter-Korean summit to implement the grand bargain.” This suggestion was apparently made in the same context.

This indicates that if Pyongyang makes concessions on its nuclear program and on South Korean POWs and abduction victims, the pace of discussion on the summit could pick up speed.

In a report on North Korea’s situation and inter-Korean relations in 2010 released late last year, the (South) Korea Institute for National Unification said, “There is a chance for an inter-Korean summit after the first half of 2010. If the venue is not Seoul, it could be the truce village of Panmunjom, Kaesong and Dorasan Station on the inter-Korean railway.”

“A summit is necessary to find a new breakthrough in the nuclear standoff and inter-Korean relations. Pyongyang is running out of time due to its economic crisis and transition of power, and can ill afford to constantly have inter-Korean relations remain confrontational.”

If the summit happens ahead of South Korea’s local elections June 2, however, political controversy could ensue in the South. “This year is very important since it is the third year of the Lee administration and in achieving his grand bargain proposal,” a government official in Seoul said. “The government, however, will take a careful approach.”