Hope and concern for talksWe have both expectations and worries when looking at the six-party talks in Beijing. In this second round of talks since North Korea tested a nuclear device, it is certainly good news that concrete first-step measures are being discussed to implement the joint declaration of the denuclearization of North Korea in September 2005. However, there are worries that the results of the talks may be a repetition of the nuclear agreement signed in Geneva 13 years ago.
This round of negotiations is progressing faster than ever. For instance, China, the host of the talks, circulated a draft version of a joint statement on the first day.
The outline of the statement is that if North Korea stalls the operation of or closes its Yongbyon nuclear facilities, including a 5-megawatt graphite moderated reactor, and allows inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the other five parties at the talks will provide alternative energy aid to North Korea.
Cooperation on security in the Northeast Asian region and normalization of ties between Pyongyang and Washington and between Pyongyang and Tokyo are also included.
That the September joint statement is entering a phase of tangible progress is a very positive move, indeed.
The basic agreement in Geneva, which ended as a failure, divided North Korean issues into two phases; freezing future nuclear arms, and investigating nuclear arms that it had possessed and dismantling them. At each step, North Korea was supposed to be rewarded with heavy oil and light-water reactors. Washington explained that the agreement at this round of talks is different from the Geneva agreement because the former takes a blanket approach, with North Korea to get rewards in return for freezing its nuclear facilities with the promise of abandoning of its nuclear arms.
However, the weak spot is that there is no way to confirm if North Korea totally abolishes its nuclear materials and arms.
We need to be sure that the first steps to implement the September agreement will eventually lead to the final step, which is North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear arms. The parties in the talks should not simply offer carrots to the North because they are desperate to produce tangible results.
The Korean government should work closely with Washington, but should be careful when negotiating in order not to have unreasonable burdens passed on to us.