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On January 30, North Korea announced that all military-political agreements
On January 30, North Korea announced that all military-political agreements with Seoul were no longer valid. This implies that North Korea will now discuss regional security issues with the new U.S. Administration instead.

North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a Pyongyang-based government agency overseeing the Korean peace settlement and relations with South Korea, put the blame on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who was elected in 2008 and who renounced his predecessors' bilateral-rapprochement policies.

The North Korean statement said there was no longer any possibility or desire to maintain and modify relations between the North and South. The statement's authors warned that mutual confrontation had now reached the brink of war.

In late 1991, North and South Korea signed the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, Exchanges, and Cooperation, formalizing a disputed demarcation line in the Yellow Sea. The agreement, which was confirmed during bilateral talks on military issues in November 2007, implies that both sides will be jointly responsible for the situation in disputed waters pending a final border-demarcation deal.

Pyongyang, which refuses to recognize the aforementioned demarcation line drawn in 1953 after the end of the Korean War by U.S. General Mark Wayne Clark, Commander of the United Nations Forces in Korea, has now terminated this agreement.

In October 2007, North and South Korean leaders met for the second inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang and charted a plan for establishing a zone of peace and cooperation, as well as a joint fishing area, in the disputed region. South Korea's Kyunghyang Shinmun newspaper said this plan had failed after Lee Myung-bak was elected President, and that agreements on stopping mutual verbal attacks were also rendered null and void.

Both sides have tried not to irritate each other since Pyongyang hosted the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000. Under Lee Myung-bak, South Korean non-governmental organizations (NGOs) started launching balloons with leaflets criticizing top Pyongyang leaders across the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Although North Korea repeatedly warned that it considered such actions a violation of previously reached agreements, the leaflet-balloon campaign did not cease.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland also mentioned the Lee Myung-bak Administration's military preparations in border areas.

The South Korean Reunification Ministry's spokesman Kim Ho Nyon expressed deep regret in connection with the North Korean statement. He told a briefing in Seoul that framework and other agreements between the South and the North had been finalized by both sides and could not be unilaterally abolished. In effect, Seoul rejects Pyongyang's statements on the allegedly null and void military-political agreements.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae was more categorical and said the Yellow Sea demarcation line had been drawn 50 years ago, and that the North would be duly repelled if it violated the border. Consequently, Seoul does not even want to discuss the maritime demarcation line at this stage.

Analysts say Seoul's refusal to implement the previous bilateral-rapprochement policy has provided North Korea with a pretext for terminating relations with the Lee Myung-bak Administration and to try and deal with U.S. President Barack Obama instead.

An agreement signed in 1994 by the administration of Democrat Bill Clinton with North Korea made it possible to freeze Pyongyang's nuclear program for several years. The program was resumed after Republican George W. Bush became President, proclaimed North Korea part of the "axis of evil", and declared war on Iraq. North Korea, not wanting to wait for its turn, withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and resumed its nuclear-weapons program.

Pyongyang, which has missiles capable of reaching Japan, tested its first nuclear explosive device in October 2006 but said it was ready to renounce the nuclear-weapons program if the U.S. stopped threatening it. This made it possible to resume six-sided talks involving Russia, the United States, China, North and South Korea, and Japan. However, the concerned parties have only started decommissioning North Korean facilities used to obtain weapon-grade plutonium. The talks may have reached a deadlock due to disagreements with the governments of South Korea and Japan.

Pyongyang obviously wants to settle the Korean nuclear crisis through negotiations with Washington because the crisis is rooted in bilateral relations. At the same time, it does not openly refuse to take part in the six-sided talks being conducted in a rather sluggish manner in Beijing since August 2003.

North Korea's response was caused by the rejection of subsequent mutual rapprochement by President Lee Myung-bak. Nonetheless, everything will depend on how far the Obama Administration is ready to go in its relations with Pyongyang, while abiding by Washington's military commitments to Seoul.

Technically speaking, the United States and North Korea have been at war since the conclusion of the 1953 armistice. Although the Clinton administration launched talks on normalizing bilateral relations, Washington has so far refused to discuss the possibility of signing a peace treaty.

If relations are normalized and a peace treaty inked, then the United States would find it hard to justify the need for keeping 30,000 troops in the south of the Korean Peninsula, largely at the expense of South Korean taxpayers.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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