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Experts: Pyongyang's Overtures Raise Hope for Talks

FILE - In an image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, and Liu Yunshan, China's Communist Party's No. 5 leader, second right, waves during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the country's ruling party, in Pyongyang, Oct. 10,

Prospects for renewed talks with North Korea are rising as Pyongyang appears to moderate its behavior, U.S. experts say.

Pyongyang did not fire a long-range rocket during a much-touted party anniversary last week, despite widespread speculation that it would do so. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s speech at the ceremony did not include usual nuclear rhetoric and the two Koreas are set to hold rare reunions of families separated by the Korean War next week.

Some analysts say Pyongyang’s apparent overtures could provide an opportunity for key members of the Six-Party Talks aimed at resolving disputes over North Korea’s nuclear development to discuss ways to restart the nuclear talks. Those talks have been stalled since late 2008.

Resumption likely

Joseph DeTrani, former nuclear envoy and intelligence official, believes the issue will be discussed during President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye's Friday talks at the White House.

“Given recent developments with North Korea, a discussion on reengaging with Pyongyang to determine if the meaningful Six-Party Talks should be reconstituted is likely,” said DeTrani.

FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R) pose for a photo during their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, April 25, 2014.
FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and South Korean President Park Geun-hye (R) pose for a photo during their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, April 25, 2014.

Charles Armstrong, a professor at Columbia University who specializes in Korean studies, said the two leaders could call for dialogue, adding an “overt call for a return” to the stalled nuclear talks is unlikely.

Armstrong said Washington is showing little interest in returning to the talks immediately.

U.S. officials say the two leaders will discuss how to restart “serious” and “meaningful” talks.

“We’ll discuss ways to bring North Korea back to serious and meaningful denuclearization talks,” Daniel Kritenbrink, National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs, told reporters this week.

Kritenbrink said the two presidents will reaffirm their commitment to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and stress Pyongyang’s compliance with nuclear obligation.

Pyongyang’s intention unclear

Some analysts remain skeptical about Pyongyang’s intention.

“I think another long-range missile or rocket launch is probable in the next three to six months. There is no indication whatsoever that it is rethinking its nuclear and missile policy, so another test in coming months is virtually inevitable,” said David Straub, former director of the State Department’s Korea Desk.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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    Jee Abbey Lee

    Jee Abbey Lee is a veteran broadcast journalist with more than 10 years of experience in TV, radio, and the web. She serves as Voice of America's social media correspondent and is an expert of millennial lifestyle. 

    Lee received her graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to joining VOA, she worked at the Seoul bureau of CNN Travel and served as the chief Bank of Korea correspondent for Arirang TV.