[EDITORIALS]Angry at being spurnedThe format for multilateral talks addressing North Korea’s nuclear program will emerge soon, as the North, the United States and China have agreed to hold three-party talks in Beijing Wednesday.
The three countries will decide on the general outline of the talks, as well as on the agenda. The Beijing meeting is most welcome because Pyeongyang and Washington have agreed to return to the table for talks.
It is highly regrettable that South Korea has been excluded from the preliminary talks, for our interests are direct and vital. Moreover, the three nations are the same ones that signed the 1953 cease-fire treaty that brought the end to the Korean War, a treaty to which South Korea was also not a party. If at the Beijing meeting the three were to come to a major decision concerning peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, without including South Korea, that will be violating the basic principles laid out in the traditional defense alliance between Seoul and Washington. The exclusion will further hurt future cooperation between the two Koreas.
Over time, the talks are expected to expand to include South Korea, Russia and Japan. But Seoul cannot sit leisurely on the fence with that expectation in mind, particularly since the three parties have said that they will hammer out the larger principles and the agenda pertaining to the future multilateral parties.
There are predictions that the three countries will adopt flexibility in the multilateral talks. By flexibility, we mean North Korea and the United States leading negotiations on the nuclear issue; Russia joining in discussions about providing North Korea with alternate energy sources; and as many as 6 to 10 countries participating under the umbrella of the multilateral talks.
Seoul should not take lightly being spurned this time around, especially if we recall the events of the 1994 talks between North Korea and the United States that led to the Geneva accord. South Korea must be included as an indispensable member nation to the multilateral motif, and the government should take aggressive and thorough diplomatic steps so that South Korea can take part in the talks as a leading party.