Keep focus on disarmament

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Keep focus on disarmament

Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, is expected to visit Pyongyang in early October.

The U.S. State Department said Washington will hold direct talks with Pyongyang in order to persuade North Korea to rejoin the six-party disarmament talks.

There is nothing wrong with one-on-one talks between the United States and the North.

Yet we hope that it won’t lead to the repetition of the failed negotiations over the last 20 years, where we’ve seen a maddening cycle of fits and starts. The irrelevancy and inconsistency - hard-line at first, and then over-compensatory later - displayed by the George W. Bush administration should particularly be avoided.

In a famous speech during his first term, former U.S. President Bush branded North Korea as part of the “axis of evil.” He followed that up by rejecting talks with the country during the first part of his tenure in office.

Surprised by the North’s first nuclear test in 2006, however, President Bush in his second term eased some restrictions on funds that had been frozen and began direct talks with North Korea.

The six-party talks continued for a while. But the Bush administration, criticized by Congress for being too soft with the North, haggled with Pyongyang over inspection procedures, and the president ended the term with the multilateral talks in a stalemate.

There are many views on President Barack Obama’s decision to resume talks with Pyongyang. He has seen that sanctions alone cannot force North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. He may also be seeking a breakthrough in the international scene amid falling popularity at home over his proposed health care reforms.

Whatever the reason, it should not be forgotten that North Korea won’t easily give up its nuclear campaign. But it is important that it does.

North Korea clings passionately to its nuclear program, and therefore the procedures of persuasion will be laborious and long. It is therefore essential to stay faithful to the basic principle of disarmament.

The Obama administration is moving in the right direction to address the North Korean nuclear issue within the context of the multilateral dialogue framework. It must also keep punitive restraints on the North for breaking the agreement and proceeding with nuclear development, at least until the country proves that it is dismantling its nuclear program.

So far, the twofold strategy of carrot and stick has not worked. Instead, it has only emboldened the North.
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