Posted June. 09, 2005 06:23,
North Korea has expressed its willingness to return to the six-party talks. Even though it refused to set a date for the resumption of the talks, it is a matter of time before the talks resume, given that a Chinese official said with confidence that the talks will be held within weeks in Beijing. It is regrettable that the talks has been stalled for about a year as the North used brinkmanship and played for time. Nevertheless, we take comfort from the fact that we can avoid the worst-case scenario if the talks resume.
However, we should not hastily place high hopes on the talks. If past experience is any guide, there will be a tough tug-of-war over the formality and agenda of the talks. North Korea will surely insist on having bilateral talks with the U.S. rather than the six-way talks. Even though in an attempt to get Pyongyang to the negotiating table, the U.S. held out the possibility of having bilateral talks within the framework of the six-party talks, substantial discussions should be done in the six-party talks. It is because South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia are likely to assume responsibility of giving the North a reward for returning to the talks if the North renounces its nuclear weapons.
Setting the agenda is not going to be easy. It is highly likely that North Korea will use its own unique tactics by putting forth an unacceptable agenda and making gradual compromises on it. North Korea declared on February 10 that it possessed nuclear weapons. By using its nuclear possession as a bargaining chip, the North is likely to win concessions from other countries in different areas while negotiating its reward for giving up nuclear weapons.
In order to deal with these possible tactics of the North, cooperation among five participating countries, in particular, between South Korea and the U.S., is essential. There should be an agreement between the two on the extent to which security assurances are guaranteed to the North. If Pyongyang is to be a due member of the international community, it has to open up to the outside world. It is questionable whether security assurances can be viewed as a guarantee of the permanent protection of the Kim Jong Il regime.
The upcoming summit between South Korea and the U.S. on June 11 should be a venue for the two countries to have a candid discussion on these issues and strengthen the ROK-U.S. relationship.