Sunday, October 5, 2014

North Korean officials pay rare and surprising visit to the South

We should keep in mind that unification is ultimately the only way to solve what the United Nations (1953 Armistice and multiple UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions as well as the ROK/US Joint Vision Statement in 2009, and reaffirmed in 2013) has called the Korea question"  which is the unnatural division of the peninsula. And this is the only outcome that can solve the nuclear and human rights problems in the north.  So we should look at the north's current actions in terms of how we can use them to focus on unification while "managing" the nuclear problem (and problems of proliferation, illicit activities) and trying to improve and protect the human rights of the population in the north.

North Korean officials pay rare and surprising visit to the South


South Korea's national security adviser Kim Kwan-Jin, left, shakes hands with Hwang Pyong-So , director of the North Korean military's General Political Bureau, the top military post in North Korea, during a luncheon meeting. (Korea Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

By Anna Fifield October 4 at 9:53 PM  
KYOTO, Japan— North and South Korea have agreed to hold another round of high-level talks after a top-level Northern delegation, including the men thought to be second and third in command behind Kim Jong Un, paid a surprise visit to the South on Saturday.

The unusual and unannounced trip — the first such high-level visit in more than five years — comes at a time of intense speculation about North Korea’s leadership, given that Kim, the third-generation leader of the communist state, has not been seen in public for a month.

It also comes amid a steady stream of disparaging comments from both sides, with South Korean President Park Geun-hye recently calling for the international community to help in “tearing down the world’s last remaining wall of division,” and the North calling Park an “eternal traitor” in response.

“It’s a big deal, it’s really a big deal, because it’s completely unprecedented,” said Andrei Lankov, a North Korea scholar who studied in Pyongyang and now teaches in Seoul.

The 11-strong group from North Korea was led by Hwang Pyong So, widely considered Kim’s deputy. He’s the top political official in the Korean People’s Army and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, which is led by Kim.

North Korean state TV said leader Kim Jong Un is suffering from "discomfort," the first official acknowledgment that he is unwell after a period out of the public eye. (Reuters)

Another member of the delegation was Choe Ryong Hae, who has performed both of the roles currently performed by Hwang and is chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Commission. That job was previously held by Jang Song Taek, the influential uncle that Kim Jong Un had executed last December, according to NK News, a Web site that monitors the North.

The third top official was Kim Yang Gon, secretary of the central committee of the Korean Workers’ Party and head of the United Front Department, the North’s equivalent of the South’s unification ministry.

The delegation had lunch with South Korea’s unification minister, Ryoo Kihl-jae, and Kim Kwan-jin, the national security adviser to Park. South Korean media showed photos of Ryoo shaking hands with Hwang, in North Korean military uniform bedecked with medals, and later sitting down for a meeting together.They also met South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, who later said he viewed the visit as a good omen. “I hope that it will lead to South-North cooperation and exchanges,” his office said he told the North Koreans, according to Yonhap News.

The two sides agreed to hold another round of talks, perhaps even before the end of this month, and in a sign of what counts as progress when it comes to diplomatic relations with North Korea, the delegation from Pyongyang agreed to call them “talks.”

“The delegates agreed to have working-level consultations on specific matters ahead of the high-level meeting,” a spokesman for the South’s unification ministry said in a statement after the meetings. “The North explained that it intends to continue inter-Korean dialogue by naming the upcoming meeting the second round of talks.”

However, the North Koreans did not meet Park, the South Korean president, with the spokesman saying a meeting “was not realized due to limited time.”

Still, the sudden visit, which analysts said appeared to take South Korea by surprise, sparked talk of a thaw on the divided peninsula. The delegation arrived Saturday morning, ostensibly to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, which had been held in Incheon, the airport city about an hour west of Seoul.

A rare visual tour of the reclusive and secretive country.

This photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting the Chonji Lubricant Factory. Korean Central News Agency via AFP/Getty Images

“This group has way too much firepower for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games,” said John Delury, a North Korea watcher at Yonsei University in Seoul. “The games are a subterfuge for some kind of inter-Korean movement. I do think they’re coming with a substantive agenda for Park.”

This is the highest-level North Korean delegation to visit the South since 2009, when two top officials — including Kim Yang Gon, who visited again Saturday — visited to pay the North’s respects after the death of Kim Dae-jung, the president who championed rapprochement between the two Koreas.

Lankov said North Korea appeared to be enlarging its “charm offensive” as it tries to “get away from excessive Chinese influence.” North Korea’s foreign minister has been traveling the world, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly last month and now visiting Russia. Officials have been holding talks with the Japanese government over a decades-old abduction dispute.
(Continued at the link below)

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