[EDITORIALS]A lot at stake in six-party talks

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[EDITORIALS]A lot at stake in six-party talks

The second round of six-way talks on North Korea’s nuclear program will be held in Beijing in two days, and the responsibility weighs heavily on all the parties.
Should we fail to find a solution in this round of talks, we could lose the very reason for the talks. That would set the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program adrift again, and the United States might then launch unilateral, hard-line measures against the North as part of its determined efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This would seriously challenge the stability of the Northeast Asian region.
There are, however, high hopes for the talks as well. So far, North Korea has delivered its message through China and Russia that it does not want its standing in the international society to worsen because of its nuclear program. Also, recently, Pyeongyang and Beijing agreed to cooperate in making “substantial progress” in the talks.
The United States has also hinted at the possibilities of bilateral talks with the North within the framework of the six-party talks and has expressed its willingness to talk about North Korea’s freezing its nuclear program with the promise of completely dismantling it in the near future. This is a more flexible position than the “dismantle-first-then-negotiate” stance it had taken.
North Korea’s denial of a highly enriched uranium program and the emotional dispute between the North and Japan over the issue of Japanese abductees are two of the remaining obstacles in the talks.
Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon had the right idea when he stated that the South Korean government wanted the North to include its highly enriched uranium program in the freezing of its nuclear program and that this first step should be accompanied by inspections.
This position should be a good starting point to discuss in the working-level meeting to be held in Seoul today to coordinate the efforts among South Korea, the United States and Japan.
The issue of the highly enriched uranium program, which is less urgent than the North’s plutonium-based program, and that of Japanese abductees should not be overtly emphasized so as not to disrupt the hard-won opportunity to hold the six-party talks.
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