[EDITORIALS]Complicated six-party talksNorth Korea has expressed its willingness to accept the six-country format for discussing its nuclear program. It signals a change in a situation that, despite its gravity, has so far made little progress because of disagreement over the format for negotiations. It is affirmative that North Korea has accepted the multilateral format after its refusal of any dialogue that is not preceded by bilateral talks with the United States.
There will naturally be ample analysis of why North Korea has taken such a step. The government should not comfort itself by taking this as a breakthrough in the nuclear standoff but instead should prepare for a long and complicated string of negotiations.
North Korea has chosen Russia as its dialogue channel despite active diplomacy by China between Pyeongyang and Washington. This is likely a move to bring Russia ― a permanent member of the UN Security Council along with the United States and China ― closer to itself in response to the U.S. plan to bring the issue to the council. This also reflects a hope to check U.S. dominance during the talks by bringing both China and Russia to the table. In any case, the North Korean regime is in a struggle for survival.
There has only been a vague expectation for success in China’s mediation mixed with mounting concern that North Korea may be about to declare itself a nuclear state. Not only does the government lack intelligence about North Korea’s moves and actions, but also increasingly has the tendency to interpret the North’s activities to its liking. Objective analysis of the situation has been a difficult job for the government.
We have no experience in conferences that involve the two North Korean allies, China and Russia, at the same time. Moreover, the negotiations will be a critical meeting that will deal with issues directly affecting the future of the peninsula and will include the participation of countries that have practical interest in the stability of Northeast Asia. The talks are not likely to be trouble-free. The government must be ready to draw up strategies to deal with the complexity of both the participants and the issues.