New hope for six-party talks

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New hope for six-party talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il told visiting Chinese premier Wen Jiabao that his country is willing to return to the six-party denuclearization talks depending on the progress in bilateral talks with the United States. Some see the mention of the six nation negotiations as a gesture to save face for China, the host of the multilateral talks and the North’s biggest ally.

Whatever his motives, we welcome this positive expression from the North Korean leader. But nothing further can be said until the country re-engages in the six-party talks or takes steps toward eliminating its nuclear arms program.

The hope is that Kim’s comment will prompt a meeting between Washington and Pyongyang, even though the two sides are still far apart in defining the purpose of the bilateral talks.

Kim wants the nuclear issue discussed primarily during bilateral talks with the United States, with the six-party talks acting largely to confirm the deal. Washington, on the other hand, sees bilateral talks as a curtain-raiser to the main discussions in the multilateral framework. The two would have to narrow their differences on the nature of the bilateral talks before Washington’s special envoy, Stephen Bosworth, makes a visit to Pyongyang.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement saying that all the other parties - South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States - are in agreement that the North’s nuclear issue is best solved through the six-party framework and that the United Nations Security Council resolution to impose sanctions on the North for its nuclear test remains intact.

We believe Washington will hold firm to its position. There is no other path, considering the erratic developments in the North Korean nuclear issue over the last two decades.

During his meeting with Wen, Kim said that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula had been the will of his father and founding leader Kim Il Sung. However, his actions have proven otherwise. We can no longer rely on his words and hope for a resolution to the nuclear issue. Therefore, we need to maintain the two-track policy of pressure and dialogue, unless the North’s nuclear facility is irrevocably destroyed.

President Lee Myung-bak is slated to meet with the heads of China and Japan over the next two days. We must make our position clear during the talks. Close ties with Washington and Beijing are critical at this stage.

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