Two Koreas agree to cooperate for peace

Bush administration divided on policy

NEW YORK — South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) have been moving forward towards cooperation and peace, while the Bush administration seems to be divided over its policy toward the Korean peninsula.

The two Koreas completed their first direct talks in 10 months on May 19 in Pyongyang with an agreement to “cooperate for peace on the Korean peninsula” and another agreement on ministerial-level meetings in the near future.

High-level delegations from the north and south will attend a “great festival for national reunification to be held in Pyongyang,” reported the DPRK’s news agency, KCNA. “Both sides also decided to have the 15th north-south ministerial talks in Seoul from June 21 to 24 and push ahead with cooperation from a humanitarian and compatriotic stand.”

Meanwhile, cracks are beginning to be seen in the Bush administration. Five days after the DPRK announced that it would not return to the six-party talks unless American officials addressed the north directly, Joseph DiTrani, the U.S. special envoy on North Korea, met on May 13 with the north’s ambassadors at the DPRK’s UN Mission here. According to reports, the U.S. officials said they recognized the DPRK as a sovereign state and would not attack it.

The six-party talks include Russia, the U.S., People’s Republic of China, DPRK, South Korea, and Japan. They were designed to resolve the Korean nuclear issue after the U.S. refused to discuss the problem with the DPRK bilaterally.

The May 13 meeting contrasts with the U.S. policy of attacking the legitimacy of the north’s government and alluding to a possible “regime change.” While the Bush administration has repeatedly refused bilateral talks with the DPRK, analysts say that the meeting could signify a split in the administration and a possible change in policy.

“The New York meeting,” said an op-ed in the (south) Korea Times May 23 edition, “revealed what the neo-cons still refuse to concede in public, that the North Korea policy heretofore coming out of the White House has been a miserable failure, hobbled with strategic myopia punctuated by the Bush administration’s childish and unproductive name-calling.”

The Korea Times article argues that the DPRK is considering changing its stance because “Bush’s team changed their approach, and did what many diplomats and U.S. partners in the six-party talks, as well as Democrats in the U.S., have been urging all along — they negotiated one-on-one.”

However since the May 13 meeting, administration officials have made contradictory statements. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for example, suggested that the U.S. might ask for sanctions on the DPRK by the UN Security Council.

“If the U.S. has a sincere stand to settle the issue through the six-party talks, it should opt for creating conditions and an environment for resuming them,” said a spokesman for the DPRK foreign ministry on May 22. Referring to statements made by Rice and others, he said, “This only creates confusion in guessing the U.S. stand.”