South Korea's president-elect promises aid to North
South Korea's incoming president, Park Geun-hye, says she will reach out to the North and offer humanitarian aid. Some analysts doubt her sincerity and expect her to take a more moderate approach.
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Despite the launch, Park says humanitarian aid, including food, medicine and daily goods meant for infants, the sick and other vulnerable people, will flow. She says none of the aid will be anything that North Korea'smilitary could use. She's open to conditional talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Inside North Korea: more circus than bread
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The aid won't be as much as North Korea will want, to be sure, and it won't be as much as her liberal challenger in Wednesday's election, Moon Jae-in, would have sent. Park's conditions on aid and talks also could doom talks before they begin.
Pursuing engagement with North Korea "really would have to be her top priority for her to be a game-changing kind of leader on the issue," said John Delury, an analyst at Seoul's Yonsei University. He added that Park is more likely to take a passive, moderate approach.
"In the inter-Korean context, there's not a big difference between a passive approach and a hostile approach," Delury said, "because if you don't take the initiative with North Korea, they'll take the initiative" in the form of provocations meant to raise their profile.
North Korea was not a particularly pressing issue for South Korean voters, who were more worried about their economic futures and a host of social issues. But it is of deep interest to Washington, Beijing and Tokyo, which had been holding off on pursuing their North Korea policies until South Korean voters chose their new leader.
The next Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is a hawk on North Korea matters who has supported tighter sanctions because of the rocket launch.
The U.S. had attempted to warm relations with North Korea with an aid-for-nuclear-freeze deal reached with Pyongyang in February, but that collapsed in April when the North conducted a failed rocket launch.
Washington could use a new thaw on the Korean Peninsula as a cover to pursue more nuclear disarmament talks, analysts say, but the Obama administration will also likely want a carefully coordinated approach with Seoul toward Pyongyang.
Park's North Korea policy aims to hold talks meant to build trust and resolve key issues, like the nuclear problem and other security challenges. Humanitarian assistance to the North won't be tied to ongoing political circumstances, though her camp hasn't settled details, including the amount.
Park also plans to restart joint economic initiatives that were put on hold during the Lee administration as progress occurs on the nuclear issue and after reviewing the projects with lawmakers.
Park's statement that she's willing to talk with Kim Jong Un "practically means she's willing to give more money to North Korea," which is Pyongyang's typical demand for dialogue, said Andrei Lankov, a scholar on the North at Seoul's Kookmin University.
But the heart of the matter — North Korea's nuclear program — might be off limits, no matter how deeply the next Blue House decides to engage.
"North Korea isn't going to surrender its nukes. They're going to keep them indefinitely," Lankov said. "No amount of bribing or blackmail or begging is going to change it. They are a de facto nuclear power, period, and they are going to stay that way."
AP writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.