Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Seoul fears becoming odd man out in U.S.-North Korea talks

President Obama’s envoy to North Korea, Stephen W. Bosworth, began a rare trip to Pyongyang today, on a mission to halt the North’s reactivated nuclear weapons program and persuade it to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

“South Korea fears that Bosworth’s trip can create a split in the international efforts to put pressure on the North through sanctions,” said Chang Yong-seok, an analyst at the Seoul-based Institute for Peace Affairs. “The rift may grow, depending on the outcome of his trip.”

Mindful of this concern, Washington emphasized that Mr. Bosworth was traveling with a narrow agenda: determining whether the North planned to return to six-nation nuclear talks and to recommit itself to a 2005 pledge to give up its nuclear assets in return for aid and security guarantees.

“We don’t intend to reward North Korea simply for going back to doing something that it had previously committed to do,” a senior American official said in Washington during a background briefing on the eve of Mr. Bosworth’s trip.

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