John Kerry has no plan to talk with North Korean First Minister in Malaysia

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (Yonhap) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has no plans to meet one-on-one with his counterpart from North Korea on the sidelines of a regional security conference set for this week in Malaysia, the State Department said Tuesday.

Kerry arrived in Kuala Lumpur earlier Tuesday to attend a series of annual meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Asia’s biggest annual security gathering, known as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

ARF is one of the rare international gatherings that North Korea has regularly attended and brings together the top diplomats from 27 countries, including all countries involved in the six-party talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear program.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner dismissed the possibility of Kerry meeting one-on-one with Ri.

“He will be having many bilateral meetings. Obviously, he left Singapore earlier today. He’s now in Kuala Lumpur,”

Toner said at a regular press briefing. “I don’t have anything to confirm, but I can imagine he’ll be trying to meet with as many of his counterparts as he possibly can.”

Asked if there is any possibility of Kerry meeting with the North’s Ri, however, the spokesperson said, “I don’t believe so.”

Last month’s breakthrough deal on Iran’s nuclear program briefly raised hope Washington would be able to pay more attention to the North Korean nuclear issue, but such hopes were quickly dashed as both Washington and Pyongyang stuck to their existing positions.

U.S. officials have urged Pyongyang to learn from Tehran and negotiate away its nuclear programs, demanding that the North first take action demonstrating its denuclearization commitments. The North, on the other hand, has said it is not interested in an Iranian-style nuclear deal.

The six-party talks aimed at resolving the North Korean impasse have been idled since late 2008.

While the six-party talks have been on hold, the North has bolstered its nuclear capabilities and stockpile, conducting its second and third nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013. Some experts now warn that the communist nation’s nuclear arsenal could expand to up to 100 bombs by 2020.


Yonhap News agency


2 soldiers wounded in suspected mine explosion on southern side of Korean Demilitarized Zone

SEOUL, Aus. 4 (Yonhap) — Two soldiers were seriously wounded in what is believed to be a landmine explosion in the heavily fortified demilitarized zone, the military said Tuesday.

The explosion took place on the southern side of the DMZ in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi Province, at 7:40 a.m. while the two Army staff sergeants carried out a search mission there, according to the military.

The explosion nearly severed the soldiers’ legs and they were rushed to a military hospital, the military said, adding that they are not in critical condition.

“There’s not the possibility of North Korea’s involvement,” a military official said. Possibly a landmine is the cause of the explosion, he noted.


Yonhap News agency


Lee Hee-ho visit to Korea DPR raises hope for cross-border thaw

Flag of North Korea.svg


Lee Hee-ho, the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, will embark on a four-day trip to North Korea on Wednesday, amid high expectations that her visit would set the mood for a thaw in the frosty cross-border relations.

The 93-year-old widow of the former leader, noted for his efforts for inter-Korean reconciliation, will fly over the West Sea to Pyongyang via South Korean low-cost carrier Eastar Jet. Lee last visited the North in December 2011 to attend the funeral for former North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il.

Her itinerary includes a nursery, children’s hospital, maternity hospital in Pyongyang and Mount Myohyang, north of the capital. Her 19-member delegation includes former Culture Minister Kim Sung-jae and Paik Nak-chung, professor emeritus at Seoul National University.

No schedule has been set yet for her meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But the Kim Dae-jung Peace Center, which organized her trip, thinks that she will likely meet Kim considering that he offered a handwritten invitation to her late last year after she sent condolence flowers to him on the occasion of the third anniversary of the death of his father.

Should she meet him, Lee is likely to deliver to Kim her wishes for improvement in the bilateral relationship that has been strained due to Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear arms and its provocative behavior, and Seoul’s hard-line response to them.

Lee has repeatedly expressed her hopes for addressing cross-border tensions during her recent meetings with high-profile politicians and government officials including Seoul’s Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said it was not considering asking Lee to deliver its message to the North Korean side.

“Lee’s trip to the North is a personal one. Her trip itself is very meaningful, but we are not considering sending any special message to the North through Lee,” said the ministry’s deputy spokesperson Park Soo-jin told reporters.

Major political parties alike here expressed their hopes that her trip will help the two Koreas find a “breakthrough” in the deadlocked inter-Korean relations.

“We hope that her trip will serve as an opportunity to reignite the flames of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation,” said Kim Young-woo, spokesperson for the ruling Saenuri Party.

Kim Sung-soo, spokesperson for the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, said the government should more actively utilize her trip to the North to address the inter-Korean stalemate, rather than discounting her trip only as a personal affair.

By Song Sang-ho (

The Korea Herald