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[Editorial] Breakthrough on Nuclear Issue Required at Six-Party Talks

[Editorial] Breakthrough on Nuclear Issue Required at Six-Party Talks

Posted July. 11, 2005 03:20,   


It is welcome news that the fourth round of six-way talks is being held the last week of this month to discuss North Korean nuclear issue. The consistent pressure and persuasion by Washington and Beijing, and South Korea’s pledge of economic assistance appear to have succeeded in getting Pyongyang back to the negotiating table. The North now also seems to have faced the limitation of its “brinksmanship” strategy.

What matters at this point is how many tangible results the upcoming talks will yield. Some in the U.S. government are reportedly saying, “If there is no progress even at this time, we will follow another path,” which implies that Washington may abandon diplomatic efforts. The North must bear this in mind.

The spokesperson for the North Korean foreign ministry announced yesterday that “we will do our best to realize the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” Then it is natural that it scraps its self-claimed nuclear weapons and materials and seeks economic assistance and regime assurances in return. The talks would be meaningless if it repeatedly argues, “We have already become a nuclear power, so six-way talks must be converted to arms control dialogue.” The self-claimed nuclear weapons and the disputed nuclear program must never be dealt with separately.

The U.S. had proposed a “June Initiative” which links the North’s nuclear freeze and compensation in the third round of talks last year. South Korea also had presented a so-called “significant proposal” to offer its own measures for assistance to North Korea. Taking this into consideration, these proposals must lead to specific negotiations in a practical manner. Meanwhile, Seoul and Washington must be firm about not accepting Pyongyang’s demands if it avoids or attempts to delay the six-party talks.

The inter-Korean Economic Cooperation and Promotion Committee is currently being held in Seoul starting the day before yesterday to discuss a number of issues including rice assistance to the North. The atmosphere at the venue is reportedly encouraging with the news of the resuming six-party talks. We should remain calm all the more. It is not desirable for the sake of the South Korea-U.S. alliance to pursue economic cooperation with the North too far while the six-way talks are at a standstill. We have seen precedents when trivial matters made U.S.-South cooperation weak and created counterproductive results. We have to remind ourselves that we have to resolve the nuclear issue before “inter-Korean” cooperation.