Kim Jong Il’s expression of willingness to improve inter-Korean relations and ties with the U.S. is believed to imply that bilateral contact with Washington will come first, followed by inter-Korean dialogue, bilateral talks with Tokyo, and the six-party talks.
Chances are that North Korea wants to engage in denuclearization talks only with the U.S. and seek economic assistance from South Korea and Japan through separate dialogue.
Another theory is that North Korea’s bid to improve relations with South Korea and Japan ahead of its bilateral contact with the U.S. is an attempt to facilitate bilateral talks with the U.S. and to get international sanctions against North Korea eased.North Korea used China to create a reconciliatory atmosphere without giving up its nuclear weapons while avoiding international sanctions.
So Seoul will continue its two-track approach of imposing sanctions on Pyongyang and seeking dialogue at the same time. Inter-Korean relations could improve, however, should North Korea take genuine action to abandon its nuclear ambition.