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[Editorial] N. Korea Needs 6-Way Talks, Not Bilateral Talks

[Editorial] N. Korea Needs 6-Way Talks, Not Bilateral Talks

Posted July. 29, 2009 07:06,   


The spokesman of the U.S. State Department told a news briefing Monday that Washington is willing to talk to North Korea through the six-party nuclear dialogue if Pyongyang implements specific measures. North Korea had said last week, “We are ready to meet (the United States),” and added Monday, “We have a different way of conversation to address the current issue,” demanding bilateral talks. The U.S., however, rejected North Korea’s offer.

It is a positive sign that North Korea has stopped its harsh rhetoric since its second nuclear test and proposed dialogue. Yet the timing and format are key. Pyongyang proposed talks right before “strategic and economic” discussions between the United States and China at a time when sanctions loom on North Korea under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874. The Stalinist country wants bilateral talks rather than six-way talks with the United States. It also wants to avoid international isolation and sanctions by catering to the U.S., which wields real power, and China.

Pyongyang tries to hold bilateral talks with Washington whenever it faces an obstacle because of its nuclear program, but seems determined not to give up its nuclear ambition. The U.S., however, has ruled out being duped by North Korea’s tactics. The Obama administration has stressed this principles several times, saying there is no reward for bad behavior and rejecting talks with North Korea that exclude South Korea. American hawks pressing for sanctions instead of dialogue are gaining power. The international community is also firm in imposing sanctions. North Korea must face this reality.

The only way for Pyongyang to survive is to get political and economic compensation in return for giving up its nuclear program. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said, “If North Korea goes the path of irreversible denuclearization, we will offer a comprehensive package – the normalization of the U.S.-North Korea relationship, the establishment of a permanent peace, and energy and economic assistance.” This idea came based on a consensus with South Korea.

Last week before the strategic and economic dialogue between the U.S. and China, President Obama said in his opening speech that Washington will cooperate with Beijing to remove Pyongyang’s nuclear program. North Korea is mistaken if it believes China will be on its side forever. If North Korea genuinely wants to resolve the issue through dialogue, it must first improve strained inter-Korean relations instead of seeking direct talks with the U.S. North Korea should return to the six-party talks with sincerity.