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Declaring “Denuclearization” Due to Conflicting National Interests

Declaring “Denuclearization” Due to Conflicting National Interests

Posted August. 01, 2005 06:08,   


The six-party talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis entered the stage of tuning the wording of a joint document on July 31, which is attracting attention to what will be included.

In the introduction, it is expected that the six nations will show their commitment to de-nuclearize the Korean peninsula with one voice, but it is not easy as to what extent and in what expressions.

On this, China’s Xinhua Daily reported, “The validity of the ‘1992 North-South joint declaration on denuclearization of the Korean peninsula’ will be reconfirmed.” The joint declaration said, “South and North Korea do not possess nuclear reprocessing facilities and uranium enrichment facilities.”

In case the declaration is reconfirmed, the part that says, “The two Koreas only utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” might be controversial. That is because the South and the U.S. argue that they cannot accept North Korea’s argument that it has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear weapons. It means North Korea’s wish “to resume constructing light water reactors” is not likely to be reflected in the declaration.

In addition, regarding a security guarantee and economic assistance for the North, it is unknown if detailed actions of security guarantee and economic assistance will be included, such as peace negotiations and a multilateral security guarantee.

The North Korea-U.S. normalization of relations will be included on the agenda for sure, but it is likely that the declaration will only be principle oriented, where if North Korea withdraws nuclear weapons, relations would be normalized politically, militarily and economically. Detailed specifications on North Korea’s weapons withdrawal, such as conditions, procedures and extent, will hardly be included.

After all, the joint declaration is likely to just make the following points public: the Korean peninsula’s commitment to de-nuclearize; a verification-based withdrawal of North Korea’s weapons; a security guarantee and economic assistance for the North; and the normalization of relations between U.S. and North Korea. Analysts say sensitive issues like the U.S. providing a nuclear umbrella to the South, and human rights and missiles in North Korea will be on the agenda at a later date.

Nevertheless, the six nations’ representatives are spending hours on the wording, because a single word might considerably change national interests due to sensitivity.

The top U.S. negotiator, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia-Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill said, “The texts might be short, but each line is very important to the participating nations,” showing how hard it is to attune each nation’s different national interests.

If the format is a joint declaration even with declaratory measures, the Korean government says, it is not insignificant at all because it would be the first document from the six nations to agree upon the withdrawal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons in an official manner. The first to third six party talks merely had presidential summaries or statements that were barely legally binding.

The six nations’ representatives have delayed their flight schedules to return home, even working on weekends, as the talks have continued longer than expected, to draw up the joint declaration.

Jong-Koo Yoon jkmas@donga.com