[EDITORIALS]More than we could expectThe six-party talks to resolve the North Korean nuclear issues have reached an agreement and a joint statement was made yesterday. It is fortunate the parties were able to reach a dramatic agreement after facing a crisis that almost threatened to stop the talks. If the participating countries had not been able to reach an agreement this time, the Korean Peninsula could have been heading toward a real crisis.
The negotiators were able to detour North Korea’s demand for a light-water reactor, a major issue obstructing the talks. The most significant point of this joint statement is that North Korea and the United States both accepted most of what the other country wanted. North Korea promised to abandon its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. The United States made it clear that it had no intention to attack or invade North Korea.
On this basis, both countries pledged to respect each other’s sovereignty and right to peaceful existence, and also to take steps to normalize relations.
These points had been discussed in the Geneva Agreement in 1994 and also in the U.S.-North Korea joint communique of 2000. But this agreement is more significant since it was made within a multilateral setting, not just between the two countries. Its binding power within the international community is much greater than that of the earlier bilateral agreement. It is also more significant because it is based on a North Korean pledge to abandon its nuclear weapons, not just freeze its programs.
“The 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be observed and implemented,” the statement says, and this passage is also remarkable. The joint declaration bans North and South Korea from nuclear reprocessing and possessing uranium enrichment facilities.
But North Korea had been bluntly violating the joint declaration. Now that the joint statement has become a promise on a multilateral level, unlike the inter-Korean declaration, North Korea cannot again break those promises as they desire, as they did in the past.
“The directly related parties will negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum” also stands out in the joint statement. Establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula was discussed in the six-party talks for the first time. The joint statement can be seen as an opportunity to resolve the North Korean nuclear issues and also dismantle the Cold War structure on the peninsula created after the Korean War. The statement should be a guideline for bringing peace to the peninsula.
The problem is how faithfully the countries involved will observe the terms of the joint statement. North Korea did not make an issue of the light-water reactor, but if this becomes an issue again, other negotiations such as normalizing U.S.-North Korea relations could make slow progress. There is also the possibility that if a party hesitates to follow the joint statement with this excuse, everything would return to the starting point.
Let’s hope that North Korea and the United States will think of this joint statement as the “start of resolving the problems” and put forth strong efforts to make the follow-up negotiations go smoothly.