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North, South Korea Begin Unification Talks October 9, 2006

Posted by chuckwh in Korea, News and politics, North Korea.
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North Korean leader Kim Roo-Hyun and South Korean President Moon Hee-sang meet today in the first talks aimed at determining whether there is a way towards unification of the two countries.

Roo-Hyun has taken a surprisingly hard line against the concept of re-unification, insisting that “separate and equal” co-operative efforts between North and South Korea remain the cornerstone of the economic relationship between the two states.

China, often considered to have been behind the coup that overthrew Kim Jong Il in 2003, has been urging reunification talks ever since North Korean refugees began flooding across the Tumen river in response to a crackdown by the North Korean government on political dissidents and activists.

The Roo-Hyun regime has maintained a curious mix of hardball domestic policies with rapprochement towards the South, presumably because the South has been supplying the North with tons of rice, especially during winter months. The policies have at least been fairly consistent since President Gore and the Chinese leadership signed the Mutual Cooperative Korean Defense Pact, which, although it really has no teeth, provided the semantics for UN-mandated mutual protection for both Koreas, and established a framework for providing “safe” energy for North Korea.

The terms of that pact were fiercely attacked by Republicans, who said that North Korea’s violations of the 1994 nuclear pact were proof that the Kim Il regime could not be trusted. Republicans, typically, called for sanctions, and insisted the U.S. cut supplies to heavy fuel oil to North Korea. The Gore Administration refused, but was clearly annoyed by the discoveries that North Korea continued to secretly develop nuclear weapons in violation of the 1994 agreement. The State Department began a frantic series of high-level summits with Chinese leadership, the only nation known to have any real influence on North Korean politics. The coup followed shortly after, and, although many believe it was engineered by the Chinese, there is no solid proof of that.

Regardless, expectations are not high, especially in South Korea, for any substantial progress in talks. In fact, many observers consider it simple window dressing to make China happy as it continues its pattern of closer relations with its biggest trading partner, the United States.

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