Roh Won’t Send Special Envoy to the North

[imText1]In a decision reflecting a chillier climate on the Korean Peninsula, President Roh Moo Hyun will not send a special envoy to North Korea while Pyongyang refuses to participate in six-party nuclear disarmament talks, high-ranking officials said Sunday.

Cheong-Wa-Dae and government officials said President Roh had no plans to resolve the nuclear issue by sending a special envoy to Pyongyang, as earlier signaled, and believes the ball to be entirely in North Korea’s court. They said Roh had conveyed this to relevant ministers and the National Security Council.

The government believes it will have no choice but to raise the level of pressure on Pyongyang through cooperation with the U.S. and Japan if North Korea does not change its attitude. It has prepared a number of contingency plans.

“If North Korea asks for an exchange of special envoys first, we would see it as a major change in the situation, and we could consider it after consulting with other participating nations in the six-party talks,” a high-ranking government official said.

The government’s position contrasts with the atmosphere late last year when sending a special envoy to the North was openly discussed within the government. Before North Korea’s declaration that it is boycotting the talks, Unification Minister Chung Dong Young said it was natural for Seoul to consider sending an envoy, but recently he has been more ambiguous.

Roh’s position is being read as expression of disappointment with Pyongyang. Seoul has given North Korea a large amount of rope, with the president directly asking U.S. President George W. Bush not to provoke the Stalinist country when the two met in Santiago, Chile in November. But North Korea responded by taking took an extremely hard line.

Roh appears to feel that sending an envoy now would fracture cooperation with the U.S. and Japan at a time when it is uncertain whether such a move would get results. A high-ranking official reflected the chillier atmosphere when he explained that a special envoy was a form of direct communication between leaders, and there first needed to be some sort of breakthrough before that could be considered.

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