A senior U.S. diplomat visiting Asia says China did not expect North Korea to abruptly cut-off dialogue with South Korea last week. North Korea had announced it has no need for talks with the Seoul government just days after leader Kim Jong Il visited Beijing.
Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell visited Beijing and Seoul this week to discuss the deadlocked talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear program and the issue of sending food aid to North Korea.
After visiting Beijing, Campbell says Chinese officials indicated they did not expect that their close ally would soon announce that it was cutting off dialogue with Seoul.
“I think it would be fair to say that the Chinese interlocutors were concerned by the disruption in talks and a little surprised and very much want to see improvement in dialogue between the North and South,” stated Campbell.
North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il visited China shortly before that announcement, but apparently gave no indication that Pyongyang was about to walk away from talks with the South.
During a news conference in Seoul Friday, Campbell called on China to press North Korea to re-open talks with the South.
Tension between the two Koreas rose after Pyongyang accused the Lee Myung Bak government of bribing the North to hold a summit between the two leaders.
Seoul admits to holding secret talks with the North over a potential summit, but denies Pyongyang’s allegations.
On Thursday, an official from North Korea’s National Defense Commission said it will release tapes from that meeting if the South does not confess.
Seoul wants the North to make its own admissions about the sinking of a South Korean navy ship last year as well as apologize for the deadly attack on Yeonpyeong Island.
Some critics say Seoul needs to drop those requests if it wants to improve relations with the North.
But Kurt Campbell says Washington continues to support the South’s position.
“We are closely in alignment with our strategies and we believe that the essential approach that South Korea has laid out is the right one. We would like to see a resumption of talks and dialogue, but we also believe that the South Korean approach will bear fruit,” he said.
The future of talks over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is uncertain while the two Korea are not speaking. Those negotiations have remained deadlocked for more than two years.