[EDITORIALS]Some regret, some hopeThe fourth round of the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear problem has adjourned after 13 days of negotiations. As the talks attracted a lot of attention, it is regrettable that there has been no joint statement of principles agreed upon, with last-ditch negotiations having failed. That notwithstanding, it is fortunate that the negotiations have not broken down completely, and that the worst possible situation has been avoided with the agreement to resume the talks after three weeks.
In this round of talks, bilateral contact between the United States and North Korea has become an important part of the negotiations, and the main goals ― denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and normalization of Washington-Pyongyang relations ― have been agreed upon. In this sense, this round can be seen as having made more concrete progress than previous rounds.
But it is true that prospects are not so bright, because the differences of opinion between the United States and North Korea over the North’s right to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, and over corresponding measures to denuclearize the peninsula, are too big to overcome. We expect the countries involved to do their best to keep the talks flexible and effective, and to actively seek points of agreement.
The North Korean nuclear problem is a difficult one that has dragged on for 14 years. It can’t be solved in a meeting of 10 or so days. The Geneva talks addressing the first North Korean nuclear crisis lasted as long as 50 days. This recess can provide vitality for the next stage, as an opportunity to coolheadedly review the discussions and to coordinate viewpoints internally. In that sense, it is noteworthy that chief North Korean delegate Kim Gye-gwan said, “This round has laid the groundwork for the progress of future talks.” He also said, “it was the accomplishment of this round that we could confirm the principle of ‘word to word’ and ‘action to action.’”
The other participants also see considerable progress in the basic agreement on the talks’ object and final goal. If they can build mutual confidence and work out their differences on methods, there can be a way out of the nuclear labyrinth. Therefore, the focus of the meeting should be on these points. If it is, the United States and North Korea can agree after three weeks on an advanced solution to the scope and method of nuclear dismantlement.
The efforts of South Korea and China to coordinate between the United States and North Korea were displayed prominently at these talks. They have played a pivotal role in making practical progress, from the resumption of the talks to the process of negotiations. Building on their accomplishments so far, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia must make further diplomatic efforts during the recess to persuade both North Korea and the United States to make strategic decisions when the talks resume.