The only road for the North

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The only road for the North

The focus is on whether or not the six-way talks to handle the North Korean nuclear problem will soon continue. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il recently met with a Chinese envoy but did not make clear to Wang Jiarui, director of the International Department of the Communist Party, whether or not he intended to revive the talks.

However, negotiations between the two countries are urgently in progress, including a trip to China by North Korea’s chief representative to the six-way talks, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kim Gye-gwan, to meet Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, who chairs the negotiations.

Around 14 months have passed since the nations involved last sat down together. During the interim, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test and even fired an intercontinental ballistic missile. The international community stood against the action with a sanction resolution by the United Nations Security Council. The North Korean economy, which took a step backwards due to market crackdowns and strengthening the planned economy, has fallen into a bottomless pit.

The recent currency reform it conducted as a last option is known to have made the situation even worse. This is why it is predicted that there is a higher chance North Korea will return to the negotiation table. It is now clearer that North Korea has no way of overcoming its economic crisis without external support, so it has no choice but to get actively involved in solving the nuclear problem. It is predicted that discussions on the nuclear problem will progress faster than before if the six-way talks restart. The denuclearization process, which had included the demolition of the cooling towers of the Yongbyon reactor in 2008, will start again and progress quickly, and UN Security Council restraints will then be lifted. Discussions on establishment of a peace treaty, which North Korea strongly desires, can also start.

If a South and North Korean summit meeting is held in step with such progress, exchange and cooperation projects between the two countries, which have been at a standstill, can be reactivated. Furthermore, if the situation turns to completely solving the North Korean nuclear problem, Seoul, which has publicly pledged full support for Pyongyang, and international society will be able to give much-needed aid.

This order of progression is the only way North Korea can break away from the economic ordeal that has continued in the country for the past 20 years.

I urge Kim Jong-il once again to stop looking left and right and decide once and for all to return to the six-party talks.
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