Saturday, April 21, 2007

North Korea and South Korea Talk

Sources: Voice of America ; Associated Press

On Saturday, South and North Korea wrapped up economic discussions regarding food aid, cross border trains, and other joint projects. South Korea had offered to resume talks in February after the North Koreans agreed to begin closing its nuclear facilities. However, since North Korea missed the April 14th deadline to begin disarming, the talks were put into question. South Korea, at the opening session, called on North Korea to honor its agreement to disarm. This resulted in the North Korean contingent storming out of the talks.

Talks resumed Friday after Thursday’s walkout, and several major economic issues were addressed. North Korea has proposed to set up a branch of its bank in Kaesong, which is a border city and also houses a joint industrial complex. Furthermore, the two states also agreed to run test trains across the border, which would be first time trains have crossed the DMZ in over 50 years. The two sides are close on agreements to exchange raw materials for clothes, shoes, and soap, for the right to develop mineral resources in the north.

However, the most important development from the talks was the North Korean request for 400,000 tons of rice aid. South Korea had resumed much of its aid shipments in February after the talks, but withheld food shipments to put pressure on the North Koreans to disarm. At the moment of this posting, however, South Korea, while accepting in principle to accept NK’s request, is still pushing for a joint statement that forces North Korea to discuss disarmament. North Korea, however, argues that these current economic talks have nothing to do with the nuclear agreement.

Question: How long can North Korea, as a state, survive on aid from other nations—and, what would be the economic impact of the two Koreas eventually unified?

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