Wednesday 18 July 2018

Giants fear being frozen out of peace deal

China and Japan demand place at talks as Kim heads for South Korea

Buddhist monks put their hands together to wish for a successful inter-Korean summit at the Jogye temple in Seoul. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP
Buddhist monks put their hands together to wish for a successful inter-Korean summit at the Jogye temple in Seoul. Photo: Lee Jin-man/AP

Julian Ryall

Japan and China fear being frozen out of historic talks with North Korea as the US and Seoul take the lead in pushing for denuclearisation of the rogue regime.

The North's leader, Kim Jong-un, is due to set foot in South Korea for the first time today for talks with Moon Jae-in, the South's president, a prelude to a proposed summit with President Donald Trump in June.

The North's powerful neighbours have been increasingly voicing fears of being left out as the future security of the peninsula is decided.

China is pushing for a "collective body" to negotiate with Kim, or four-party talks which would potentially exclude Japan. "Whether it is four or six, the number is not key as long as China is involved," said Zhao Tong, a nuclear analyst at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy.

North leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Reuters
North leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Reuters

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, is pushing for his own meeting with Kim amid fears Japanese interests could be ignored.

Tokyo is concerned the US will only require the destruction of North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missiles, leaving Japanese interests still exposed to medium range weapons.

Mr Abe also wants the return of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and an end to the regime's chemical and biological weapons stockpiles.

Sheila Smith, a Japan expert in Washington, said the Japanese "understand that when Kim is talking about denuclearisation he doesn't necessarily mean the same thing that we mean".

She told the 'New York Times': "I think it may be that the Abe cabinet is still a little nervous that Trump is still going to say, 'See, I did it', claim a win and walk away."

Mr Trump has revealed a recent meeting in Pyongyang between Mike Pompeo, the CIA chief, and Kim lasted over an hour.

The US president said he was considering three or four dates and five locations for his summit with Kim.

He said: "This is a much more dangerous ball game now, but I will tell you it's going very well. The nuclear war would have happened if you had weak people."

Mr Trump added: "I'm saying to myself, 'Wait a minute, all of these things he [Kim] has given up, and we haven't even really that much asked them.' I never gave up anything."

Jim Mattis, the US defence secretary, struck a more cautionary tone "in light of Kim's family and himself breaking every international treaty, every agreement they've ever made".

He played down concerns a potential US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would undermine attempts to strike an agreement with North Korea. "I'm less concerned with that ripple effect right now," he said.

Kim is due to be the first North Korean leader in the South since the Korean War armistice in 1953.

Mr Moon is expected to personally greet him at the military demarcation line that runs through the demilitarised border zone (DMZ).

The pair will be escorted by South Korean honour guards to a welcoming ceremony before beginning official dialogue at Peace House, a South Korean building inside the border truce village of Panmunjom.

In a grand meeting room on the second floor, the two leaders will sit on chairs etched with carvings of their shared peninsula, across a table designed to look like two bridges merging into one.

Expectations are low that any substantive policy decisions will emerge, but it is nevertheless being seen as an important first step after the testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and a hydrogen bomb brought the peninsula close to conflict.

Meanwhile, Iran says that a British-Iranian academic arrested by the Revolutionary Guard in Tehran is a "member of a British spy network".

Abbas Edalat, a professor at Imperial College London, was detained on April 15 and is believed to be in custody. The Iranian authorities acknowledged for the first time yesterday that they were holding him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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