News / Asia

South Korea Acknowledges Secret Talks with North

South Korea's government on Thursday admitted it held secret discussions with North Korea last month. South Korea's president is facing criticism across the domestic political spectrum for the talks, which were revealed by Pyongyang.

The administration of President Lee Myung-bak finds itself on the defensive amid criticism at home of its secret contacts with North Korea.

The two Korea's have no diplomatic relations and Lee, in public, has taken a hard-line approach towards Pyongyang.

North Korea, on Wednesday, claimed three South Korean officials “begged” for a summit between leaders of the two countries and offered bribes at secret meetings in Beijing last month.

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek on Thursday confirmed to lawmakers the clandestine encounter did occur.

Hyun says there was no attempt by South Korea to arrange a leaders’ summit. Rather the secret talks were intended to press North Korea to apologize for last year’s military provocations, which Seoul insists is a prelude to improving the chilly relationship.

Marcus Noland is a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics and the East West Center in the United States. He says he supports President Lee’s attempted dialogue.

"Really the story is not that the South Koreans were talking to the North Koreas - just like the Chinese and Americans are - but rather that the North Koreans chose to publically embarrass him just like they had done to a previous delegation of international statesmen that tried to reach out and open up some doors," he said.

Noland speculates that something is amiss in Pyongyang for it to be shutting down such contact at this time.

"I think it's likely that their internal politics are now going in a very hard-line militaristic direction," he said.

The revelation by Pyongyang of the secret talks followed pronouncements from North Korea that it was breaking all contacts with Seoul.

Some western intelligence analysts say this signals a new, dangerous phase in inter-Korean relations. The analysts say the recent statements from the North could mean it is willing to take some sort of military action in response to any perceived provocations by the South.

Noland, an economist who closely follows North Korea, agrees with that scenario.

"I think that the likelihood of provocation over the next year is significantly high," he said. "The North Koreans, they're in a difficult situation. Their economy is not doing well. I think it's most likely that they're asking for food aid now because they are going to do a provocation of some sort and they anticipate things tightening up."

A team from the U.S. Agency for International Development has been in North Korea assessing whether Washington should resume food aid to the impoverished country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, in May, visited China, his country’s closest significant ally, for the third time in 13 months. Analysts say there are signs the trip did not go as well as he hoped, with apparent failure to agree on the course for resumed international negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Relations between the two Korea's have been in a chill for more than a year since the sinking of a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea. Seoul blamed the explosion aboard the Cheonan on a North Korean torpedo. Pyongyang has repeatedly denied any involvement. Seoul has insisted that relations can not improve until North Korea apologizes for the attack.

Last November, North Korea shelled a South Korean frontier island, killing four people. Pyongyang said it was responding to provocative South Korean military exercises near disputed waters.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid