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China's Hu Jintao's visit: South Korea is worried Obama will cave on North Korea talks

South Korea’s main concern appears to be that Obama does not acquiesce to Hu’s call for six-party talks without the South’s full agreement – and without concessions on the part of North Korea.

By Donald KirkCorrespondent / January 18, 2011

The Capitol dome is seen at rear as Chinese and US flags are displayed in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 18, ahead of the arrival of China's President Hu Jintao for a state visit hosted by President Obama.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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Seoul, South Korea

In anticipation of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s arrival in Washington for Wednesday’s summit with President Obama, South Korean officials are digging in against North Korea’s demands for six-party talks.

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South Korea’s main concern appears to be that Mr. Obama will acquiesce to Mr. Hu’s call for six-party talks without the South’s full agreement – and without any substantive concessions on the part of North Korea.

Given that the US appears open to renewing dialogue, however, it’s far from clear how forcefully or how long South Korea will be able to resist talks it believes have no chance of getting North Korea to do away with its nuclear program.

“We all know North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons,” says Choi Jin-wook, senior North Korea analyst at the Korea Institute of National Unification, ”but still, we should talk to North Korea in an international format.”

The reason is that “six-party talks are not just for the nuclear issue but to ease tensions,” says Mr. Choi. "North Korea is desperate to talk to Washington. That’s why Washington wants to meet, and Seoul doesn’t want to meet.”

South Korea's demands

South Korea’s unification minister, Hyun In-taek, insisted again Tuesday on what South Korean leaders view as the minimal requirement for six-party dialogue – that North Korea apologize for the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians.

Other South Korean demands, though not necessarily prerequisites for returning to the table, include an apology for the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in nearby waters last March, signs that North Korea will “freeze” its nuclear and missile programs and agreement on talks between North and South Korea as a prelude to six-party talks.

IN PICTURES: North Korean attack

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