Big opportunity for NorthThe sixth round of the six-party talks resumes today in Beijing, China. The meeting will be an important milestone in the course of resolving North Korea’s nuclear issue. The outcome of the talks may determine whether North Korea’s nuclear issue will gain momentum for complete resolution or go back to the starting point.
The atmosphere is positive. Even though suspicion of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation into Syria is being raised, both North Korea and the United States remain determined to resolve the nuclear issue. Christopher Hill, Washington’s top envoy, said that there won’t be any change of direction.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked about the possibility of not linking the issue of delisting North Korea’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism with the issue of Japanese abductees. That means that the United States will use incentives for North Korea’s denuclearization. North Korea also swiftly denied suspicion about its nuclear proliferation, an unusual move for the country.
But we shouldn’t be too optimistic. Measures that North Korea needs to implement, such as disabling nuclear facilities and the adjustment of rewards that other members of the six-party talks offer to North Korea in return, are not simple matters.
As for delisting North Korea from the U.S. terror blacklist, it is not easy due to what North Korea wants. In particular, things will be difficult if the United States and North Korea take rigid positions like they did over the Banco Delta Asia issue.
After twists and turns, North Korea’s nuclear crisis has now finally entered a crucial step for resolution. The major cause for the change was U.S. President George W. Bush’s change of stance from a hard-line approach to a more moderate North Korea policy. If leaders in Pyongyang truly want to recover their impoverished economy and end isolation from international society, they must not miss this chance. In 2000, North Korea had an important opportunity to normalize its ties with the United States, as the two countries announced joint communique. But North Korea blew the chance because it was persistent. North Korean leaders must know that they had to pay painfully heavy prices for that. North Korea must not miss another opportunity by making more unreasonable demands, such as delisting it from a sponsor of terrorism. It must figure things out and make the right decision if it wants to sustain its regime.