[EDITORIALS]One last chance in BeijingThe fourth round of the six-party talks will open tomorrow in Beijing. The talks’ participants share an understanding that this is going to be the last chance to solve North Korea’s nuclear problem peacefully. Thus the world’s attention is on the talks.
Their success depends on two variables. The first is whether the North will demand another precondition for dismantling its nuclear programs. North Korea has insisted that the goal of the talks be “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” On July 22, however, the spokesman of the North Korean Foreign Ministry insisted that “the denuclearization goal will be accomplished only when both Koreas establish a system of peace.” It sounds as if the North will abandon its nuclear program only when the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War is replaced with a peace treaty. Also, the North once declared, “The six-party talks should be changed to mutual nuclear disarmament talks.”
If the North insists on these points, it is tantamount to declaring that it has no intention in having further talks. A peace treaty would be a tremendous task, involving the UN Command. The same applies to the mutual disarmament suggestion. How long will it take to have mutual inspections and verifications? This would be nothing but a ploy, by which the North would secure compensation while keeping its nuclear programs intact till the end, to use as bargaining chips. International society will not be deceived so easily.
Since the third round of talks, the United States has moved a step backward from offering compensation “after the dismantling of nuclear programs” to “when the North starts freezing its nuclear programs.” Washington has recently expressed the intent to have bilateral talks with the North within the framework of the six-party talks. These changes give us hope for progress. The problem will be the U.S. stance on the North’s highly enriched uranium program. If Washington makes this an issue, turbulence will result.
Success seems to depend on how Pyongyang and Washington detour around these problems. South Korea’s role is more important than ever. If we fail to use this last chance, we will be in crisis almost immediately. We have to use all our cards, including the electricity offer. We also have to persuade the United States to worry about the urgent matter of the North’s plutonium-based nuclear weapons program before addressing the uranium issue.