ANALYSIS: N. Korea stresses need for dialogue to remain in diplomatic picture

May 25, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

North Korea has decided that dialogue is the best way to remain at the diplomatic table ahead of various bilateral meetings scheduled for June.

On May 24, Choe Ryong Hae, a high-ranking military official who is visiting Beijing as special envoy for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and indicated that Pyongyang was prepared to join in dialogues at the six-party talks on its nuclear weapons issues.

In response to a comment by Xi that "the relevant nations should maintain denuclearization as well as peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula," Choe, who serves as director of the General Political Bureau in the Korean People's Army, said, "We want to resolve the issues appropriately through dialogue in such forums as the six-party talks."

The comment was meant to indicate that North Korea was behind the Chinese position that the six-party talks should be used to resolve the various issues related to the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Yong-hyun, an associate professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said: "North Korea has apparently accepted the requests made by China. There was also an intent on the part of North Korea to gain the initiative by expressing a positive attitude toward dialogue before the U.S.-China summit meeting (in June)."

Choe presented Xi with a letter from Kim Jong Un. The letter likely contained a request from Pyongyang to express to the United States when Xi meets with President Barack Obama that North Korea was prepared for dialogue. Xi also plans to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in June.

Having North Korea express positive signs about rejoining the six-party talks, which it had long rejected, can be considered a major achievement for China.

Choe also said in his meeting with Xi, "We will take aggressive measures for the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula."

Chinese officials took Choe's comments to be significant since they consider him as an individual who can conduct discussions as the envoy of Kim Jong Un.

Beijing has tried to play the role of placating rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. After North Korea continued with provocations, such as showing signs of preparing the launch of medium-range ballistic missiles in retaliation for joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, "We will not allow conflicts to take place at our front gate."

China also applied pressure on North Korea by going along with the United States on some economic sanctions, such as the suspension of bank transactions with a major North Korean bank.

The comments by Choe after such diplomatic moves by Beijing led one Chinese researcher involved in North Korean ties to say about the meeting, "It is a result that demonstrates the maturity of Chinese diplomacy."

However, there were also limits to what China achieved since Choe made no mention of the denuclearization that is being sought by not only Japan, the United States and South Korea, but China as well.

One Beijing diplomatic source said that unless North Korea was prepared to abandon its nuclear ambitions, there would not likely be any progress even if dialogue with North Korea was resumed.

(This article was written by Atsushi Okudera in Beijing and Akira Nakano in Seoul.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, meets with North Korea's Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, a senior Workers Party official and the militarys top political officer, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on May 24. (Color China Photo/ AP Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, meets with North Korea's Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, a senior Workers Party official and the militarys top political officer, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on May 24. (Color China Photo/ AP Images)

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  • Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, meets with North Korea's Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, a senior Workers Party official and the militarys top political officer, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on May 24. (Color China Photo/ AP Images)

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