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All Headlines 14:07 July 31, 2008

*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

Pyongyang Attempting Diplomatic Duel with Seoul in International Arena

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- In what seems to be a diplomatic war on its southern neighbor, North Korea is stepping up its pressure on Seoul, demanding that it respect the principles of last October's inter-Korean joint declaration to the international community.

Pyongyang's diplomatic pressure is motivated from its evaluation that it achieved a diplomatic success in a bout with Seoul at the regional forum in Singapore last week. North Korea managed to present its position in inter-Korean issues during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum held in the Southeast Asian country, experts say.

Buoyed by the diplomatic gain, the North has pushed the agenda at the annual meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) held in the Iranian capital of Teheran. NAM, with 118 member countries, is an international organization of nations not formally aligned with or against a major power bloc. South Korea is a guest to the international organization, while North Korea is a formal member. This year's ministerial meeting of the organization kicked off on July 27 for a four-day run.

In another diplomatic tussle in Teheran, South and North Korea strived to drum up international support for their differing approaches on inter-Korean ties. North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun flew to the Iranian capital by way of Vietnam after attending the ARF.

Oh Joon, South Korea's deputy foreign minister for international organization, global issues and treaties, has also been dispatched to Teheran on a mission to explain Seoul's stance on inter-Korean relations to other nations.

South Korean officials said the ministerial meeting of the NAM adopted a final document reflecting quite a large portion of Seoul's position on inter-Korean affairs. In the document, the ministers expressed support for South Korea's efforts for national unification as indicated in the June 15, Oct. 4 summit agreements, and all other joint declarations and agreements reached between South and North Korea in the past.

The officials said the ministers of the non-aligned countries expressed support for the major agreements made by the six-party talks including the Sept. 19 accord in 2005, and emphasized the need for prompt implementation of the accords.

The recent session of the ARF was the site of the first face-to-face diplomatic competition between the two sides since the South's conservative Lee Myung-bak administration took office in February. The meeting was also joined by South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan.

The North engaged in a frantic diplomatic courtship of Southeast Asian nations, putting pressure on the Lee government to implement the inter-Korean summit agreement signed by its liberal predecessor on Oct. 4 last year.

During a meeting with Vietnam's Communist Party chief, Nong Duc Manh, North Korea's Foreign Minister Pak was promised Vietnam's support for the North's struggle for reunification based on principles of the June 15 and Oct. 4 joint declarations, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on July 29.

South Korean minister Yu used the annual forum to try to garner international support for Seoul's efforts to shed light on the recent shooting death of a 53-year-old South Korean civilian who allegedly strayed into a military zone at Mt. Kumgang, a resort on the North's east coast, where she was shot by a North Korean soldier.

The ARF chairman's initial statement included the demands of both Koreas, but after strong objections by the South on references to the summit agreement, the positions of both countries were removed in a revised statement, triggering calls in the South for the resignation of the foreign minister. Originally, Seoul wanted the international statement to reflect the positions of the two Koreas in a balanced manner.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has taken a lukewarm stance on the Oct. 4 deal, which calls for drastic expansion of inter-Korean economic cooperation. Pyongyang has long claimed Seoul's new administration under President Lee does not respect the declaration signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun last year.

The declaration addressed principles including mutual respect and trust, easing military tension on the Korean Peninsula and eventually signing a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. Signing a peace treaty with the South and neighboring nations is considered by the North a step forward to gain international legitimacy for its regime. Therefore, Pyongyang has put more emphasis on the 2007 declaration than any past agreements with Seoul.

But Seoul has contended that all major agreements that Pyongyang has signed should be equally recognized and respected, including the Sept. 19, 2005 agreement made in the six-party talks, a breakthrough agreement that mapped out the North's detailed denuclearization process.

Meanwhile in Pyongyang, the North's main newspaper called for the implementation of inter-Korean declarations. Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said on July 28, "The Korean nation's struggle to bring about a new turning point in the cause of national reunification by successfully implementing the October 4 declaration under the uplifted banner of the June 15 joint declaration has hit a snag owing to the moves of the Lee Myung-bak group."

"The declarations serve as the landmark indicating the shortcut to national reunification in the new century and programmes for reunification reflecting most correctly the requirement of the developing era and the desire of the nation," the newspaper said. "Neither national reconciliation and cooperation nor the development of inter-Korean relations, peace and prosperity would be thinkable apart from the declarations."

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