North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister is in New York for talks with US officials on the possible resumption of long-stalled international negotiations on ending Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.
The news comes after more than a year of deep disagreement and tension between the two Koreas.
Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan’s visit follows a crucial meeting on Friday between nuclear negotiators from North and South Korea on the sidelines of a regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Bali – the first such meeting in months.
The dialogue between Pyongyang, Seoul and Western mediators is hampered by the perception in the West that North Korea poses a nuclear threat. However, Erich Weingartner, consultant on international humanitarian affairs, believes this is simple prejudice, and that the country’s atomic program is purely defensive.
“Personally, I don’t think it [nuclear program] is a threat in the sense that North Korea will use it to attack South Korea, or Japan, or any other country. For North Koreans this is very much a defensive measure. They don’t want to be attacked, and they believe, rightly or wrongly – I think wrongly – but in any case, they believe that having nuclear weapons or even a threat of nuclear weapons will safeguard them from attack,” said Weingartner.
The expert believes though that the situation on the Korean peninsula is far from quiet.
“We’ve heard this week that North Korea is planning the major military exercise on the western seashore, which is exactly the place where all of these incidents have happened before. So the situation is becoming rather serious in terms of military confrontation, and it would help obviously, if there were some talks in process,” he said, adding:
“When North Korea is involved in positive talks either with the USA, or with South Korea, or in the six-party talks the provocations have not happened.”