Don’t bank on breakthrough

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Don’t bank on breakthrough

U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth is in Pyongyang as part of a mission to bring the recalcitrant North Korea back to the multilateral framework designed to end its nuclear weapons development. President Barack Obama repeatedly stressed that the first direct discussions between the United States and North Korea under his leadership are aimed at reactivating the six-party talks and getting the reclusive nation to participate in a disarmament program.

North Korea, however, remains as oblivious as ever. Hyping the impending visit by senior U.S. officials, the North Korean press reported that the two sides will primarily discuss a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. To set the record straight, South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan emphasized that a peace treaty should be settled between the two warring Koreas, with the U.S. and China joining as witnesses.

North Korea has finally rejoined the bargaining table over nuclear issues, but not without stirring tension and ire among other nations.

Slow-moving international efforts to constrain the country’s nuclear ambitions have had some breakthroughs in the past. North Korea pledged to dismantle its nuclear facilities after talks with the U.S. in 1994. It reiterated its commitment to denuclearization in a joint statement after the fourth round of the six-party talks in 2005.

Since then, however, the North detonated its nuclear devices twice and declared the six-party framework dead when the United Nations Security Council condemned its alleged satellite launch in April of this year. The North conducted its second nuclear test the following month, leading to broad UN sanctions.

The world again calls on North Korea to recommit itself to the six-party disarmament talks. Few, including the special envoy himself, expect a breakthrough from new talks in Pyongyang.

Yet we hope North Korea decides to return to the six-party talks after meeting U.S. officials.

The peace treaty issue is already on the six-party agenda. Six countries are ready to offer rewards of economic aid and security guarantees to the current regime in return for denuclearization as stated in the joint statement of 2005.

Whatever North Korea is after can be best found in the framework involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan. Unless it does not want to relinquish its nuclear ambitions, the country has no better place to fulfill its needs.
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