Posted : 2016-01-22 17:17
Updated : 2016-01-22 20:44

Park proposes nuclear talks without NK

President Park Geun-hye speaks during a joint policy briefing with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Unification and the Ministry of National Defense on their policy goals for 2016 at Cheong Wa Dae, Friday.
/ Joint press corps

By Jun Ji-hye

President Park Geun-hye offered Friday a five-nation meeting, excluding North Korea from the long-stalled six-party talks, to resolve Pyongyang's nuclear program.

She made the proposal during a joint briefing at Cheong Wa Dae with the foreign, unification and defense ministries, during which they reported their 2016 policy plans to her.

The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China are aimed at denuclearizing the North but have been suspended since late 2008, casting doubt over their effectiveness.

"The relevant countries need to find more varied and creative measures including pushing for five-party talks by excluding the North," Park said. "The six-party talks had been a useful channel for resolving the North's nuclear issue through negotiations, but if its suspension is prolonged, its effectiveness will be called into question."

Her remarks indicate that she has given up on resolving the nuclear issue through talks with the North, which has shown little sign of abandoning its nuclear program as evidenced by its latest defiant claim on Jan. 6 that it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb during its fourth nuclear test.

Hours after Park's suggestion, however, China urged the participant nations to work together on resuming the six-party nuclear talks, apparently dismissing the South Korean President's idea of holding talks without the North.

"Considering the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, dialogue and negotiation are still the fundamental way to resolve the Korean nuclear issue," said China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei during a briefing.

He said that all parties should "restart the six-party talks at an early date, move forward the goal of denuclearization and ensure long-term stability and development of the peninsula."

The six-party talks have been stalled as the North insists that it should join the talks with the status of a nuclear power, calling for an unconditional dialogue, while the South and the U.S. have urged the North to show its commitment to the abandonment of its nuclear program before such talks can resume.

President Park stressed the importance of the role of China, saying that cooperation with China is the key to creating an environment in which the North has no choice but to change itself.

"China has expressed its strong willingness a number of times not to accept nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula," she said. "I expect China to take effective measures to make the North realize that the development of nuclear weapons is useless and it should come out and embrace international society like Iran did."

Park referred to the historic nuclear deal between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers that recently lifted nuclear-related sanctions on Iran after a decade of international isolation.

Park's demand for China's cooperation comes amid Beijing's apparent lukewarm stance on the North's nuclear development. China, traditionally an ally of the North, is a veto-holding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that is currently working on a resolution to impose harsher sanctions against the North.

Park called on officials to concentrate their diplomatic capacity in order for the UNSC to produce strong and effective sanctions against the North.

She added that the fundamental solution to resolve the North's nuclear issue is achieving unification between the two Koreas.

For its part, the Ministry of Unification told Park that it is planning to establish a task force to work on the denuclearization of the North and the establishment of peace between the two Koreas.

A ministry official said a director-level official will lead the task force, noting that "We are now focusing on firm sanctions in responses to the North's nuclear test. If the North offers any talks, we will ask them to discuss denuclearization first."

During its report on how to deal with the North militarily, the Ministry of National Defense said that South Korea will enhance information-sharing on the North's nuclear and ballistic missiles with the U.S. by installing a new military network, called Link16, which connects the Korea Interface Control Center (KICC) with the United States Forces Korea's (USFK) Joint Interface Control Center (JICC), both in Osan, 35 km south of Seoul.

The military tactical data exchange network will allow the allies to share text and imagery intelligence on a nearly real-time basis, which will enable Seoul to gain access to U.S. information collected by its Defense Support Program reconnaissance satellite over the Korean Peninsula as well as its Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS).

SBIRS, the Pentagon's space program for preventing nuclear war, provides persistent global, infrared surveillance capabilities to meet 21st century demand in the areas of missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence and battlespace awareness.

The move practically means the South will also share a real-time military data link with Japan, given the USFK's JICC is connected with the U.S. Forces Japan that have reportedly set up the information-sharing system with Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

This year, the Ministry of National Defense will also kick off a project to introduce a total of five military reconnaissance satellites by the early 2020s as well as deploying the Taurus bunker-busting long-range air-to-ground missile with a 500-kilometer range made by the German-Swedish joint venture Taurus Systems, the ministry added.

Follow Jun Ji-hye on Twitter @TheKopJihye

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