October 3, 2007

Korea talks are for Real

The leaders of the Koreas got down to talks on Wednesday after a cool start to a summit between two countries divided by decades of animosity, but news of a deal on unwinding Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme could lift the mood.

South Korea President Roh Moo-hyun has said he wants the summit with Kim Jong-il to ease tensions between the states, which are technically still at war, and help the economy of his impoverished northern neighbour. The international community is offering Pyongyang massive aid and an end to its isolation if it gives up atomic weapons.

Yesterday, Washington said it had approved a tentative deal reached at six-party talks in Beijing that would disable North Korea's Soviet-era nuclear complex by the end of this year.

The nuclear deal, almost exactly a year after the North conducted its first nuclear test, should ease pressure on Roh to force disarmament concessions out of Kim. Roh, in the final five months of an unpopular presidency, faces heavy pressure to come home with results from a summit which has been widely criticised as unlikely to achieve much.

Today's summit talks coincide with the day both states mark the legend of the foundation 4,300 years ago of the Korean nation.

Many analysts say the Seoul government is less fearful of the North's military threat it has lived with for decades than of its neighbour's collapse and the impact that would have on its own economy, Asia's fourth largest. That in turn means that Seoul sees spending billions on the gradual rehabilitation of the North Korean economy as in its own best interests.

Roh is expected to witness one of the North's typical mass games extravaganzas featuring goose-stepping soldiers, dancing schoolgirls and a large flip card animation section that promotes unification under the North's communist banner.

No comments: