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Denuke talks likely to expand to include China, warns former unification minister

A former unification minister called for government action Thursday, as he raised concerns that the denuclearization talks may be expanded to a four-way dialogue that includes China in addition to the two Koreas and the US.

Former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun made the statement during a conference at the National Assembly, saying Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Pyongyang attested to China’s intentions to play a bigger role in the denuclearization talks. 

Former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun (Yonhap)
Former Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun (Yonhap)

“The denuclearization negotiations have previously been carried out trilaterally, among South Korea, North Korea and the United States,” Jeong said. “But now, China, a signatory of the armistice agreement, will claim its part in the dialogue, raising the issue of a peace treaty.”

The Korean War ended in a cease-fire when China, North Korea and the United Nations Command signed the armistice agreement in July 1953.

To support his position, Jeong cited a recent op-ed piece written by Xi and published Wednesday in North Korea’s official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, interpreting Xi’s words as a call for a peace treaty.

“We will actively contribute to peace and security, development and prosperity of the region by jointly driving for progress in dialogue and negotiations regarding Korean Peninsula issues and strengthen communication and mediation with North Korea and the relevant parties,” Xi wrote.

Jeong urged the Unification Ministry to come up with a better strategy, saying its conventional practice of seeking to mediate between the United States and North Korea and encourage the two sides to hold a summit was not enough.

He also criticized the government, saying it was losing control of the process and letting the United States make decisions for the Korean Peninsula.

“The government is caught in its own trap. It should not seek permission of the United States for the resumption of (business at the) Kaesong industrial park and the Geumgangsan tour program,” Jeong said.

“(The inter-Korean projects) are not subject to the UN sanctions, so the president should first push on and get approval from the United States after the fact. Otherwise, the government will not be able to make any progress.”

By Jo He-rim (