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Countries Split Over Five-Party Talks

Posted July. 14, 2006 03:01,   


As China’s persuasion of North Korea back into the six-party talks ended up in a failure on July 13, all eyes are on whether five-party talks—where South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan will gather without North Korea—can happen.

South Korea and the U.S. believe that in order to keep the momentum of the six-party talks, which have long been stalled, they should at least hold five-party talks. China, however, is highly likely to oppose five-party talks, fearing possible resistance from the North.

Diplomatic War over Five-Party Talks-

The U.S. is the most active in pursuing five-party talks. It expects that North Korea will feel regret and pressure simply with the talks being held without them, for they anticipate light-water reactor construction and other support from the six-party talks.

In the same vein, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill recently emphasized in an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo, “I do not believe the [six-party] talks should be broken off simply because the one side [North Korea] is not coming.”

South Korea has a similar idea to the U.S.’, but it has been cautious as the North might strongly resist if it actively pushes for five-party talks.

In an interview with the KBS-1 Radio on July 13, Seo Ju-seok, the chief presidential secretary for unification, diplomacy and national security policies, said, “Efforts for the six-party talks are still going on.” He defined five-party talks as “a venue for racking our brains to make the six-party talks happen when we really find it difficult to do so.”

Meanwhile, China will highly likely oppose holding five-party talks and kick off discussions by linking the issue to whether to adopt the U.S.- and Japan-led UN Security Council resolution over sanctioning North Korea. If it utilizes the two issues as leverages for each other, it will be able to gain the upper hand in negotiations with the U.S. and Japan. Russia, which has taken the North’s side in the six-party talks, is also expected to take a similar stance to China’s.

Ideas Differ as to How to Utilize the Talks-

It is likely that through five-party talks, the U.S. and Japan will first push North Korea into the six-party talks. They might also lead the participating nations of five-party talks to adopt a resolution unanimously criticizing the North’s non-presence in the talks.

Nevertheless, China and Russia—countries that want to maintain their influence on North Korea—are not likely to follow easily. The dominant view is that they might rather try to persuade the U.S. and Japan and create “carrot” that can induce the North into the six-party talks.

In this case, South Korea is likely to serve as a mediator without taking sides, for it has to take into account not only close cooperation with the U.S. but also possible shockwaves over inter-Korean relations.

Myoung-Gun Lee gun43@donga.com