[EDITORIALS]Six parties must try harderOne year ago from Tuesday, the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States signed a joint statement confirming the North’s commitment to abandon its nuclear programs. Since the joint statement, not much progress has been made on the North Korean nuclear situation. The next round of six-party talks to discuss the implementation of the joint statement has been put on hold indefinitely with North Korea dropping out to protest the United States’ sanctions against Pyongyang’s illegal financial transactions abroad. It is a terrible pity that the joint statement could become totally obsolete with the United Nations Security Council adopting a resolution led by the United States and Japan condemning North Korea’s July 5 missile tests. Washington and Tokyo are imposing tougher sanctions against North Korea and are urging others to follow in their footsteps based on the UN Security Council resolution. So far, the North Koreans have only reacted by declaring their intention to continue with nuclear testing.
What’s fortunate is that all participants of the six-party talks agree that the multilateral talks are useful and need to be continued. Last week, President Roh Moo-hyun and U.S. counterpart George W. Bush met in Washington, agreed to work together to resolve the North Korean nuclear situation and recommitted themselves to six-party talks. Details of exactly how the two allies will go about defusing the North Korean nuclear crisis have yet to be announced and it is even unclear whether the United States will follow South Korea’s proposal of a “comprehensive common measure.”
Northeast Asia is a politically sensitive region where the interests of several superpowers are intertwined. The scramble among the superpowers to gain the political leadership of the region is aimed at the 21st century but still leaving traces of Cold War order and practices. The situation on the Korean Peninsula still holds the precarious danger of a large-scale military breakout. The six parties must provide a realistic measure to rekindle the fast-disappearing momentum of the six-party talks. Tougher sanctions against Pyongyang from the United States and Japan will only provoke a more stubborn and hard-line stance from the North Koreans, which will in turn lead to a regional instability that South Korea, China and Russia cannot afford to see happen.
North Korea should also face the fact that brinksmanship tactics such as missile testing and nuclear development programs will not save their regime from its present crisis. Seoul’s one-sided policy of tolerance towards North Korea is doing nothing to resolve the nuclear crisis and is only compromising our position on the international stage. The six parties must own up to their lack of efforts over the past year and step up to formulate a realistic plan to implement a stable peace in Northeast Asia.