Farewell, Chun Yung Woo
South Korean nuclear envoy Chun Yung Woo, widely expected to be replaced in the new administration, had an unannounced meeting in Beijing with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Gye Gwan, so the two could say farewell and finish up unfinished business.
After the meeting, Chun told reporters:
“The North reaffirmed its commitment to a smooth and full implementation of the agreement of the six-party talks. We reaffirmed our own commitment to a sincere fulfillment of our duties as the chair of the economy and energy working group of the denuclearization process. We understand that the North is ready to attend a session of the six-party talks anytime China, the host country of the talks, convenes one…. It’s not impossible to solve the issue, but the parties concerned will need more effort and time…North Korea seems to be aware that it can’t prevaricate and skip the declaration (via Chosun Ilbo).”
Is another session of the Six-Party Talks just around the corner? Kim Gye Gwan, for his part, reassures us that current delay is a technical delay, not a political delay. Says Chun:
North Korea said it will do what it has to do, and that this is not because they don’t have the willingness, nor do they call it a deadlocked situation…It is being delayed due to technical issues, not because it has some political purpose in it (via AP)”
One can only speculate as to what “technical issues” means. Chun did not elaborate any further.
Meanwhile, on the Hill front, after meeting with his counterpart in Japan, Christopher Hill, despite his optimisitc rhetoric, was rumored to be taking a tougher line in private conversations. An AFP article reports:
A senior Japanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Hill, despite his optimism, was taking a tough line on securing a declaration of the North’s atomic programmes.
“His tone has become tougher. That could mean that President Bush has instructed him to press North Korea for a complete declaration,” the Japanese official said.
As for a possible Kim Jong Il-Condeleeza Rice meeting next week, AFP reports that Hill neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of such an encounter taking place:
Hill played down speculation that he or Rice would visit Pyongyang for the concert. Both will be in Seoul on Monday for President-elect Lee Myung-Bak’s inauguration.
“I’m going to be at the inauguration of the (South Korean) president,” Hill said. “This happens to be within 24 hours, so I’ll be in South Korea, not in North Korea.”
Rice “will be in South Korea as well,” Hill said.