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Three-way talks are next round, says Blue House

Apr 02,2018
The Blue House said it wants three-way talks involving South and North Korea and the United States before having a four-way negotiation that also includes China, which was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Blue House made clear its intention to remain at the steering wheel on Korean affairs.

A senior Blue House official speaking on the condition of anonymity told reporters on Monday that the Moon Jae-in government wanted a three-way negotiation involving Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington after the inter-Korean summit being held this month and the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month.

“It is President Moon’s wish to have three-way talks following the upcoming Pyongyang-Washington summit,” said the official. The North Korea-U.S. summit, the first of its kind, has not been scheduled yet but could be held by the end of May.

In a phone call to President Trump on March 9, Xi proposed a four-way negotiation involving the two Koreas, China and the United States to settle a peace treaty between the two Koreas to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, according to Kyodo News Agency on Sunday.

The three-year conflict ended in an armistice in 1953, not in a peace treaty, leaving the South and North technically at war.

When asked if the Blue House believed the three-way talks should precede four-way talks proposed by Xi, the official said, “Yes.”
The Blue House’s stance on Monday is in line with its belief that it should serve as a mediator between Pyongyang and Washington to help them find middle ground to strike a deal.

If the schedule for talks proceed as the Blue House wishes, the three-way summit among Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington — which would also be the first of its kind — could take place following the Kim-Trump meeting.

Following the three-way talks, the four-way discussion as proposed by Xi could ensue.

If those talks produce something tangible, Pyongyang could move on to arrange talks with Tokyo and Moscow.

While the Moon government hasn’t been specific about the kind of deal it desires going forward, it has disavowed the framework used for Libya in 2003.

Under the 2003 denuclearization agreement, Colonel Qaddafi disposed of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and nuclear weapons, in return for sanctions relief from the international community.

The West set the disposal of WMDs as a precondition for sanctions relief, which North Korea believes led to the dictator’s dramatic fall from power and his murder at the hands of rebels in 2011.

The ouster of Colonel Qaddafi and his death are proof to Pyongyang that it must hold onto nuclear weapons until it has an ironclad assurance of regime survival, experts say.

The Blue House said on Friday that the Libya framework “could not be used for North Korea.” Such a position could put Seoul at odds with Washington.

The recent nomination of John Bolton as Trump’s national security adviser has raised the likelihood of a possible gap in positions of the two allies. Bolton assumes the new job next Monday.

Moon Chung-in, special adviser to President Moon on security, foreign and inter-Korean affairs, echoed the Blue House’s reservation about the Libya framework in a speech delivered at Waseda University in Tokyo on Saturday.

“The process to denuclearize the North has no other option but to proceed in a gradual manner,” said Chung, adding Seoul and the international community should adopt a “give and take” approach in each phase of Pyongyang’s denuclearization.

“If the North displays concrete signs of denuclearization, our government could ask the United Nations to roll back economic sanctions [on the North] along with China and the United States,” he said.

“While Bolton is a champion of the Libya deal, which the North will never accept, the Trump administration has not taken it as its official policy goal for the North Korea talks,” said Koh Yoo-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.

“Rather, the United States’ official stance on the North Korea nuclear issue is CVID (complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal).”

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]