In The News

Shaky Restart to Inter-Korean Talks

February 9, 2011

Less than three months after North Korea’s shelling of South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, North and South Korea opened preliminary, colonel-level talks yesterday to set an agenda and date for ministerial-level defense talks. However, the talks adjourned without reaching an agreement, raising questions about prospects for renewed diplomacy to address North Korea’s nuclear program. South Korea accepted inter-Korean Red Cross talks on humanitarian issues, but even those talks may be constrained by North Korea’s failure to take responsibility for past provocations against the South.

Both Koreas have reason to reinitiate inter-Korean dialogue, but the two sides appear to be talking past each other. North Korea has shifted from a policy of provocation to diplomatic charm offensive for the second time in two years because it needs to relieve food shortfalls and expand economic assistance from South Korea so as not to rely exclusively on China for its economic needs. South Korea faces international pressure to reengage in talks following the Hu-Obama joint call for renewed dialogue last month in Washington. It also faces domestic pressures from a South Korean public, which expects the administration of President Lee Myung-bak to retaliate strongly against North Korean provocations but is also concerned about a lack of progress in inter-Korean relations and is beginning to think about next year’s South Korean parliamentary and presidential elections.

Read the full report, originally published on the Council on Foreign Relations website.

Scott Snyder directs The Asia Foundation’s Center for U.S.-Korea Policy. He can be reached at

View all posts by Scott Snyder


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