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Seoul to use EU as messenger to Pyongyang

Posted April. 10, 2013 04:48,   


The South Korean government reportedly plans to use the European Union as its “messenger to North Korea.”

“With North Korea not even heeding to demands by the U.S. and China, the government will use the EU, which has formed diplomatic ties with the North, as a new channel with Pyongyang to make progress in the Korean Peninsula trust-building process,” a ranking government official said Tuesday. “We will convey Seoul’s message to Pyongyang by using the occasion of the EU’s contacts with North Korea.”

With channels of dialogue completely shut off due to the North’s endless “brinkmanship tactics,” countries involved in the six-party talks including the U.S. China, Japan, and Russia have no measures to overcome the impasse. Against this backdrop, the government is moving to proactively use the EU as “relief pitcher” to get over the current situation. Through the EU, Seoul will likely urge Pyongyang to make behavioral change, and send a message that “If the North does not launch provocations for a certain period of time, dialogues can be resumed.”

The South Korean government reasons that the EU is in a convenient position to convey Seoul’s message to Pyongyang’s leadership since the EU including 25 among its 27 member states has formed diplomatic ties with the North, while seven EU nations are running diplomatic missions in the North Korean capital. Referring to Germany, an EU member state, President Park Geun-hye said, “North Korea believes that it should keep promises with Germany without fail,” citing the North-Germany ties as the benchmarking target to achieve what she calls the Korean Peninsula trust-building process.

“North Korea better responds to requests by the EU, rather than the U.S.,” a government official said. “Even regarding North Korea’s human rights issue, Pyongyang tends to be less resistant if it is raised by the EU, rather than by the U.S.” The EU and its member states have had relatively more frequent visits by their leaders to the North and provided aid to the reclusive country.

Seoul’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se had a telephone conversation with Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy (foreign minister), on Monday night, and discussed ways of cooperation in North Korea policy between South Korea and the EU. Ashton was quoted by Seoul’s foreign ministry source as saying, “We will collaborate with South Korea in North Korea policy, and we will convey a clear message to the North for the latter’s wrong behaviors.” Yun reportedly requested Ashton, saying, “We would like the EU to take the lead in creating international opinion urging Pyongyang to change behaviors.”

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei urged on Monday direct dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. The international community, however, criticizes Beijing that the Middle Kingdom is seeking to hand over its roles to the U.S. as since the North’s third nuclear test, China has seen its relations with the North deteriorate while its influence on the country has been waning.

“I understand that dispatch of a high-level official to North Korea, a measure China used to serve as mediator at the crossroads of a major crisis on the Korean Peninsula in the past, is not being considered this time,” a South Korean government source said.

It is reported that through the “New York Channel," the route of Pyongyang-Washington contact, North Korea is reportedly calling on the U.S. for direct dialogue but the U.S. is maintaining a stance, “We have no intent to get over the situation through Washington-Pyongyang dialogue.”