Seoul drops demand for DPRK apology

By Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-29 07:18
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US envoy wraps up Asian tour with last stop in Beijing

BEIJING - Diplomatic efforts paid off as Seoul relaxed a demand for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks on the Korean Peninsula, saying on Friday that an apology for last year's deadly attacks is not essential to restarting the dialogue.

A senior Republic of Korea (ROK) official, who asked not to be named, said the paramount precondition for reconvening the Six-Party Talks is Pyongyang's sincerity about dismantling its nuclear weapons program, according to Reuters.

Previously, the ROK demanded that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) apologize for sinking the warship Cheonan -which the DPRK has denied doing - and attacking Yeonpyeong Island, and show its sincerity on denuclearization before broader talks can go ahead.

But the official in Seoul said the apology is no longer a prerequisite, according to Reuters.

The shift came after a recent round of diplomacy among the nations involved in the Six-Party Talks: the DPRK, the ROK, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

The ROK's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported on Friday that some senior officials hurried to deny the relaxation of the demand for an apology - which came immediately after the United States Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met Foreign Ministry officials.

Those denials give rise to suspicion that ROK ministries are at loggerheads over the Korean dialogue and denuclearization strategy, the newspaper said.

While the Unification Ministry wants to keep pressure on Pyongyang to apologize and take practical steps toward denuclearization, the Foreign Ministry wants to deal with the two issues separately, it said.

Steinberg wrapped up an Asian tour on Friday with a last stop in Beijing. The US envoy met Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and other officials, and their discussions covered a range of issues, including developments on the Korean Peninsula, according to a statement from the US embassy in Beijing.

Before the stop in Beijing, Steinberg held talks with senior diplomats in Seoul and Tokyo.

On Friday, Pyongyang proposed a dialogue between legislators from both Koreas, to which Seoul responded coolly, saying it doubted the DPRK's sincerity.

Both nations have already agreed in principle to hold military talks, and Seoul has proposed holding working-level military talks on Feb 11 to set the time and agenda for high-level military dialogue.

Zhang Liangui, an expert on Korean affairs at the Central Party School in Beijing, said Seoul's relaxing of its demand for an apology is in line with Washington's stance.

China Daily

(China Daily 01/29/2011 page7)