No rushThe six-party talks were held in Beijing for three days after North Korea’s nuclear facilities in Yongbyon were shut down. But the talks ended yesterday without producing any tangible progress. This was to be expected. The talks generated a vague consensus that declaring and disabling North Korea’s nuclear programs, the second step of the February agreement, could be implemented at an early date in accordance with the principle of action-for-action. The schedule for implementation will now be discussed in working-level meetings next month.
It will not be easy to get North Korea to declare all its nuclear programs, including its uranium enrichment program and then disable the facilities in return for political and economic benefits from its five partner nations in the talks. The precise concept of the term “disabling” is not even agreed upon yet, so it is hard to expect the time frame for implementing the second-phase measures to be easily agreed upon even in working-level talks. A long journey lies ahead to achieve the ultimate goal of denuclearization.
However, the government is making a fuss about a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula as if a big breakthrough had been made on denuclearization. The minister and the deputy minister of the Ministry of Unification argue almost every day that there is a need to discuss a peace regime between the two Koreas. Without paying attention to people, they suggested having a ministerial-level meeting early next month, advancing the schedule from late next month.
In his speech at the National Unification Advisory Council on Wednesday, President Roh Moo-hyun said that the 1953 cease-fire treaty needs to be replaced with a peace treaty. That is probably because of his feeling that South Korea should take a leading role in the discussion of a peace regime on the peninsula. But we must not be too hasty.
A peace regime on the Korean Peninsula can only be achieved as a result of denuclearization. A peace regime is dependent on North Korea fulfiling its pledge on its nuclear programs.
Discussions on a peace regime should be undertaken at the same pace as talks on denuclearization procedures. Talking about a peace regime without considering denuclearization is empty and unrealistic. Of course, South Korea should also be careful not to be passively dragged along by the United States and North Korea in discussions of a peace regime. But we should not hurry to have a peace regime before denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.