North Korea will send a delegation to this week's annual security conference in China, organizers said Sunday, amid fresh tensions along the North's disputed western sea border with South Korea.
The Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue will bring together government officials, military officers, and experts from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, South and North Korea in the eastern Chinese port city of Dalian on Thursday and Friday, according to the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC), one of the two hosts of the event.
The five countries are involved in long-stalled negotiations with North Korea to coax Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programs in return for political and economic concessions.
The disarmament-for-aid talks were last held in late 2008 and diplomatic efforts to resume the negotiations have been frozen since April, when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket that failed moments after lift-off.
The representatives will "exchange views on the current state of the regional security and how to promote strategic trust and engagement with the goal to reduce the risk of conflict in Northeast Asia," IGCC said on its Web site, without elaborating naming representatives.
North Korea is expected to dispatch Ri Gun, director-general of U.S. affairs at the North's foreign ministry, to this year's session, unidentified diplomatic sources said last week.
Wu Ge, an official of China Institute of International Studies, which hosts the event with IGCC, said he cannot confirm whether Ri will attend the session, as his institute has yet to receive the list of participants.
An email to an IGCC official seeking comment went unanswered on Sunday.
In Washington, the State Department said last week it will send Clifford Hart, its special envoy for the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program, to the security conference in China.
A State Department official said on customary condition of anonymity, however, that "Hart has no plans to meet with the North Koreans (there)."
The conference comes a week after South Korea's Navy fired dozens of warning shots against six North Korean fishing boats for violating the maritime boundary, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
No armed clash with the North occurred and all of the North Korean fishing boats returned to their waters.
Tension remains high along the poorly marked border, the scene of a series of bloody naval clashes between the two Koreas.
The North has contested the legitimacy of the NLL in recent decades and has demanded that it be redrawn, a request that the South has rejected. (Yonhap)