Thu, Dec 30, 2010 - Page 1 News List

South Korea’s Lee says talks answer to nuclear crisis

Reuters, SEOUL

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has urged negotiations to tackle the peninsula’s nuclear crisis, but analysts say chances of international talks are slim because of deep divisions and a lack of pressure on the emboldened North.

Lee, who has vowed a tough stance against any further attack by the North, also called yesterday for fresh dialogue between the rival Koreas, saying a hard-line military policy alone by the South would not ease tension.

Six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear work, which the North walked out of two years ago, were the only forum to end the program in return for aid and diplomatic recognition, Lee said at a Foreign Ministry policy briefing.

“I think removal of the North Korea nuclear programs should be achieved through six-party talks next year,” he said.

However, analysts say they doubt that can be done, given that the North has no reason to make big concessions.

There may be meetings between countries involved in the six-way talks, but for North Korea “denuclearization” — the original purpose of talks involving the two Koreas, China, the US, Russia and Japan — is out of the question, they say.

“There could be some sort of alternative process in 2011, but it is hard to say. There is a lot of pessimism about North Korea right now,” said Scott Snyder, an expert on US-Korea relations at the Asia Foundation.

A meeting between North and South Korea, backed by the US, could be an option to start a diplomatic process although chances of success were low, Snyder said.

Like the US, South Korea has signaled that it is loath to restart the diplomatic process unless its neighbor shows steps toward dismantling its nuclear program.

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