[EDITORIALS]Now, progress neededNorth Korea has announced that it will return to the six-party talks in the last week of July. The talks have been suspended for 13 months; had they been delayed further, their purpose might have been lost, heightening tension on the peninsula. As the direction of the nuclear crisis again heads toward negotiations, we hope to see practical results this time.
The United States and North Korea came to an agreement at a secret meeting in Beijing between Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. delegate to the six-party talks, and Kim Gye-gwan, his North Korean counterpart.
North Korea accepted U.S. recognition of its sovereignty, and its statement that it did not intend to invade, as a withdrawal of its characterization of the North as an “outpost of tyranny.” And the United States gave its reassurance that bilateral contact would be possible within the framework of the six-party talks. In this process, both sides showed the flexibility to make concessions. This gives us hope for future talks.
It is also true that there are many obstacles to overcome. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the North’s declartion to return to the tallks is only the first step. There are big differences in the assessment of the situation between Washington and Pyongyang. And it is highly likely that the North, which has declared its possession of nuclear weapons, will play the “disarmament talks” card. So the prospects are not all bright. It remains for the participants in the talks, including both Koreas and the United States, to solve these problems.
The North’s leader, Kim Jong-il told Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, “Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the will of Kim Il Sung.” Now the North has to demonstrate this with action. If it resorts to a tactic of securing economic aid, while making its possession of nuclear weapons an established fact, it won’t succeed. No other countries will accept it.
Pyongyang has insisted that it needs nuclear weapons to protect its system, but it is because of nuclear weapons that its economy is ruined and its diplomatic isolation has deepened. Seoul has made what it calls an “important proposal” involving large-scale economic aid, and is consulting with Washington about it. Now, the North’s choice is self-evident. It can do nothing else but abandon its nuclear program.
Both Seoul and Washington should show firm determination. They must provide incentives that the North can’t help but accept. They should have a response ready for the North’s demand for mutual disarmament talks. It is also important that both Seoul and Washington cooperate completely and avoid discord.
Practical progress should be made at this meeting, as the talks’ failure could lead to a crisis on the peninsula. The government must maintain airtight cooperation with the other participating countries and play the role of coordinator.