South Korea offers North aid, China wants nuclear talks

SEOUL Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:04pm EDT

North Korean soldiers guard behind a border fence separating the North Korean town of Sinuiju and the Chinese border city of Dandong, March 23, 2010. REUTERS/Jacky Chen

North Korean soldiers guard behind a border fence separating the North Korean town of Sinuiju and the Chinese border city of Dandong, March 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jacky Chen

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SEOUL (Reuters) - China pressed regional powers on Tuesday to restart talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and Seoul offered aid to its destitute neighbor despite a new round of U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang.

In a move that could ease tensions on the peninsula, South Korea made its first large-scale offer of humanitarian aid to the North since the sinking of one of its warships in March.

Seoul offered 10 billion won ($8.4 million) to North Korea after heavy rains in July and August in its northern and eastern provinces forced thousands from their homes and put farmland under water.

Seoul cut off most of its ties with Pyongyang after accusing the North of torpedoing the Cheonan corvette and demanded an apology.

North Korea says it did not carry out the attack, and has told its only major ally China it is committed to denuclearizing the peninsula and wants to resume the aid-for-disarmament talks.

Analysts say the North's willingness to return to talks could be a sign international sanctions are hurting the isolated state, whose battered economy is just 3 percent the size of the South.

China is lobbying neighbors to sign up for renewed talks, and on Tuesday Beijing's nuclear envoy met his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo to discuss a plan to get the six parties back to the negotiating table.

"Both of us agreed to work together to safeguard peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, meanwhile, we also agreed to work together with the others to push forward the resumption of the six-party talks as soon as possible," Wu Dawei said.

A South Korean diplomatic source said at the weekend that China had proposed a three-stage process to Seoul to restart the talks. He said North Korea and the U.S. should first conduct bilateral talks that could open the way to the broader, six-party negotiations, the source said.

China's regional lobbying, and its courting of secretive Kim Jong-il, highlight the pressures that North Korea -- isolated, poor and with a brace of primitive nuclear bombs -- has brought to bear on the region that is home to the world's second and third biggest economies and a big U.S. military presence.

NEW SANCTIONS

President Barack Obama broadened financial sanctions on North Korea on Monday and froze the U.S. assets of four North Korean citizens and eight firms in part to punish the North for the sinking of the Cheonan.

U.S. officials hope the measures, which target North Korean entities that trade in conventional arms and luxury products and that counterfeit U.S. currency, will also sharpen pressure on the North to abandon its nuclear programmes.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Seoul welcomed the toughened U.S. sanctions. "It can be assessed that the U.S. sanctions regime on North Korea has been completed overall," he said.

The new U.S. sanctions steps aim to target the leadership of the isolated, authoritarian nation, which is preparing for a key party conference that analysts say could nail down succession plans, involving Kim's youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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Comments (10)
darryle wrote:
History tells us Kim will say anything to maintain power, and his flow of Western made goodies. History also tells us Kim will also renege on whatever he said in the past. North Korea pretends it is a communist paradise where as it is nothing more that a fascist state. If this country did not have crude nuclear weapons the world would just laugh and mock Kim and his friends in office 39.

Aug 30, 2010 12:31am EDT  --  Report as abuse
tomons wrote:
Kim is committing atrocities on the North Korean people because he knows the North Koreans are wimps. Who in his right mind would donate a large amount of money to a neighbor who has nade a long list of atrocities to it? Only the South Koreans. This is the reason Kim of the North is taking them lightly and when faced with slight provocations from the South threatens nuclear war. He knows that the South Koreans are sissies and clumsy. Instead of donating monehy to the North Koreans, the South Koreans would be better off starting to finance the relocation of Seoul to a place safer enough from a direct attack by the North.
With South Korea’s population center very close to the boundary, it is very vulnerable to an attack and this could be the reason the South is anemic to a war scenario with North Korea which in turn favors North Korea’s bullying character.

Aug 31, 2010 1:53am EDT  --  Report as abuse
McBob08 wrote:
Jesus said that if someone should strike you, turn the other cheek. Behaving like Kim Jong Il won’t accomplish anything but more suffering and death. The South Koreans are doing the right thing; when Il commits aggression, respond to it with mercy.

Aug 31, 2010 5:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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