SEOUL/BEIJING, Feb 12 (Reuters) – North Korea is "not eager" to return to six-party denuclearisation talks but has not rejected the idea, a U.N. envoy said on Friday as fresh diplomatic activity raised hopes for progress on the issue.
North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, Kim Kye-gwan, who is now in China, will make a rare visit to the United States next month, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said earlier in the day, indicating the long-stalled talks on ending Pyongyang’s atomic ambitions might be back on track. [ID:nTOE61B00P]
The United States said it was not in talks with North Korea about a visit and there were no plans for one "at this point."
U.N. sanctions and a botched currency move that nearly halted commerce late last year have increased pressure on the destitute North to return to talks, to win aid to prop up its wobbly economy by reducing its security threat.
Kim’s visit to China coincided with an unusually busy week of diplomatic activity for the reclusive North that included high-profile visits by envoys from China and the United Nations, and leader Kim Jong-il reiterating he wanted a peninsula free of nuclear weapons. [ID:nSGE6180HK]
"Their attitude right now is, certainly they’re not happy with sanctions," Lynn Pascoe, U.N. Under-secretary general for political affairs, told reporters in Beijing.
"They’re certainly not eager, not ruling out, but not eager to return to six-party talks."
Pascoe met with North Korea’s president, foreign minister and vice foreign minister for discussions he said were "quite useful" and "friendly but frank," covering a wide range of issues. He dined with Chinese officials on Friday, and will travel to Seoul and Tokyo on his way to New York.
North Korea expressed interest in improving relations with its neighbours, particularly South Korea, he said, but did not offer any concrete strategy to do so.
He did not give specific details of any messages he carried.
Pascoe said North Korea was only getting about a quarter of the food and other aid it needed, and could see even that shrink. He cited donor fatigue as one of the reasons for the shortfall.
"I was alarmed to learn that funding shortfalls from the international community is placing some of these programmes in jeopardy," he said, adding that North Korea and its citizens welcomed the aid.
"Kids are not being given the nutrition requirements that they need, there is going to be hospital support that declines or goes away. These are all basic critical human needs… We need the programme to be going up, not down, to help the kids. That’s all."
Meanwhile in Beijing, Kim Kye-gwan planned to meet China’s top envoy to the nuclear talks on Friday and return home the next day with a message from the North’s biggest benefactor, a diplomatic source told South Korea’s Yonhap agency.
Asked if he may soon make a U.S. visit, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters: "We have no plans for such a visit at this point … There is no discussion that we are having with North Korea about a visit at this point."
THE NORTH AND ITS DISARMAMENT PLEDGES
Kim’s last trip to the United States was about three years ago and led a few months later to North Korea taking its first steps to disable the Soviet-era Yongbyon nuclear plant that produces bomb-grade plutonium.
North Korea later backed away from its disarmament pledges, expelled international inspectors, and produced a fresh batch of plutonium at Yongbyon which experts said could give it enough fissile material for one nuclear bomb.
"If Kim is going to Washington, he will be taking something in hand and we will likely see significant results related to the six-way talks," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.
North Korea has previously put conditions on its return to the talks, including ending U.N. sanctions and also having discussions with the United States on a peace treaty to replace the ceasefire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.
Resuming the talks could ease concerns among market players about investing in the heavily armed peninsula, but was unlikely to cause any major movements in markets, analysts have said.
Investors, grown used to the mercurial ways of the North, expect no change in the "Korea discount," where equities, bonds and other assets are priced lower than regional peers on concerns that include risks from North Korea. (Additional reporting by Jack Kim and Christine Kim in Seoul; Editing by Jerry Norton and Bill Trott)
BEIJING, Feb 12 (Reuters) – China has indicted four
employees of mining giant Rio Tinto <RIO.AX><RIO.L> on charges
of bribery and stealing commercial secrets, in a case that has
unnerved foreign investors in China. [ID:nSGE6190GU]
If convicted, the men could face up to seven years in jail
on a commercial secrets charge, and up to 20 years for bribery.
Foreign businesses and Chinese industry will be watching to see
if they get the short or long end of those ranges.
BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States is once more ratcheting up pressure on Beijing to let its currency appreciate, but for many of China’s small exporters the issue is not even on their radar.
In marked contrast to the lead-up to China’s 2005 revaluation, when rumors of a change swept Asian markets daily, there is very little discussion these days in China beyond economists’ circles of allowing the yuan to resume its rise.
BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese activist who sought to document shoddy construction that contributed to deaths in China’s devastating 2008 earthquake has been sentenced to five years in prison for subversion, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Tan Zuoren was formally accused of inciting subversion of state power in emailed comments about the bloody crackdown on June 4, 1989, on pro-democracy demonstrators around Tiananmen Square.
BEIJING, Feb 5 (Reuters) – The United States and China are
engaged in a series of trade disputes, particularly over the
value of the Chinese currency, with President Barack Obama this
week vowing to get tough in dealing with complaints that U.S.
exporters are at a disadvantage.
Here are some of the disputes dogging China-U.S. trade:
China will levy heavy anti-dumping duties on U.S. chicken
products ahead of its new year holiday on Feb. 13, a move
likely to antagonise one of the few U.S. industries that
profitably exports to China. [ID:nTOE61402H]
GENEVA/BEIJING, Feb 4 (Reuters) – China launched a dispute
at the World Trade Organisation on Thursday against EU duties on
shoes, but the European Union insisted its measures were in line
with WTO rules and denied they were protectionist.
China’s protest against anti-dumping duties extended in
December was further evidence of its increasing assertiveness in
WASHINGTON/BEIJING, Jan 26 (Reuters) – U.S. business groups
called on top U.S. officials to pressure China on moves to keep
out foreign high-tech companies, adding yet another irritant to
ties strained by currency, trade and Internet freedom issues.
The appeal, in a letter to top U.S. officials including
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, comes as China formulates
regulations for policies meant to encourage domestic industry
to ascend the value chain.
BEIJING, Jan 24 (Reuters) – China’s Communist Party
mouthpiece on Sunday accused the United States of mounting a
cyber army and a “hacker brigade”, and of exploiting social
media like Twitter or Youtube to foment unrest in Iran.
The People’s Daily accused the United States of controlling
the Internet in the name of Internet freedom after Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton called for more Internet freedoms in China
and elsewhere in a speech on Thursday. [ID:nTOE60K02Y]
SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – They are cloaked by pseudonyms and multiple addresses, but China’s legions of hackers were thrust into the spotlight last week after Google said it suffered a sophisticated cyber-attack emanating from China.
There are tens of thousands of Hong Ke, or red visitors, as they are known in China. Many are motivated by patriotism, although it is more difficult to establish their relationship with the Chinese government or military, which some experts suspect as being behind the attacks.
BEIJING (Reuters) – Internet giant Google’s threat to quit China, citing cyber-attacks and tightening censorship, could add to strains between Beijing and the United States, already at odds over currency, trade and Taiwan.
With the two giant nations joined at the hip economically, Sino-U.S. tensions are unlikely to escalate into outright confrontation, but could make cooperating on global economic and security issues all the more difficult.