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Terrorism & Security

South Korea to send nuclear envoy to North Korea

The delegation will discuss buying fuel rods from a North Korean reactor, a step in the North's disarmament process.

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Thursday's visit marks the first official South Korean delegation to visit Pyongyang since President Lee Myung-bak took office in February 2008, reports Reuters.

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Relations between North and South Korea have been frosty, with ... Pyongyang cutting almost all ties with Seoul in anger at the policies of President Lee, who ended what had once been a free flow of unconditional aid to his prickly neighbour and instead tied handouts to progress Pyongyang makes in disarmament.
The communist North and capitalist South are still technically at war, never having signed a formal peace treaty to end hostilities in 1953....
South Korea has been pushing for talks with the North after the sputtering nuclear disarmament process hit another snag late last year after Pyongyang refused to accept a proposal to allow inspectors to take nuclear samples out of the country.

According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), North Korea's willingness to host the South Korean delegation signals Pyongyang's interest in completing nuclear disarmament and can be read as a positive message to Washington.

"This is a positive signal from North Korea," Dongguk University professor Kim Yong-Hyun told AFP. "It appears to be showing willingness to go ahead with the process of disabling its nuclear programme."
He said the visit, shortly before the inauguration on January 20 of Barack Obama as US president, "is also seen as a message to Washington."

In 2007, North Korea signed on to a six-nation pact under which it would disable the plants at Yongbyon that provide fuel for its nuclear weapons. In December last year, the pact suffered a setback when negotiators could not agree on ways to verify North Korea's declaration of past nuclear activities, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill this week is making what may be the final effort of his search for a lasting deal on North Korea's nuclear program in the latest round of six-party talks in Beijing.
No one, including Mr. Hill, predicts success as he attempts to get North Korea to agree in writing to what North Korean diplomats have said they will never do: permit inspectors to take material from the North's nuclear site at Yongbyon for scrutiny outside the country....
Choi Jin-wook, senior fellow at the Korean Institute of National Unification, says that North Korea wants to put off further moves until after Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20.
Analysts say North Korea is hoping that Mr. Obama will send a high-level envoy to North Korea – a gesture of respect that might encourage progress.
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