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Sense of Urgency Defines Latest Talks

There was no pomp to welcome participants back to the six-party talks in Beijing. But what they do with the agreement they hammered out in September will paint a new vision for the Korean Peninsula.

The two Koreas met the day before the fifth round of the negotiations started yesterday.

There has been no news of what North Korea and South Korea talked about on Tuesday. But the meeting could be significant in terms of the talks as a whole. For the two nations separated for more than half a century, the more they meet and talk, the more they get to know and trust each other.

On November 5, more than 900 people from 200 Korean families shared tears and embraces upon seeing separated family members.

Twelve mass reunions have brought together 10,000 people from both sides of the peninsula.

Their faces were streaked with tears. The arms they extended to their relatives on the other side of the divide symbolized a union for peace.

The countries have struck deals on humanitarian assistance, military confidence-building measures and economic co-operation, which have warmed bilateral ties.

A more positive relationship between the two Koreas will form a strengthened basis for the Six-Party Talks.

Despite the divisions between parties and intricacy of the matter, the six delegations have returned to the Chinese capital to seek solutions. They are expected to discuss how they can turn the joint statement they arrived at in September into workable prescriptions.

In the joint statement signed in September, North Korea  pledged to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes and return, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The United States affirmed in the statement that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention of attacking or invading North Korea with nuclear or conventional weapons.

This is a testing time, particularly as negotiators have just three days, compared to the marathon fourth round of talks that were spread over 20 days.

Steps forward are needed to revitalize the snail-like talks that have dragged on for more than two years.

The previous four rounds of talks have produced a clear, correct compass guiding the direction of negotiations.

A sense of urgency, flexibility and pragmatism will do the talks a great deal of good.

In his opening speech, Chinese delegate Wu Dawei appealed to all negotiators to put forward proposals and ideas so an implementation plan acceptable to all sides can be drafted as soon as possible.

Wu's call was echoed by other delegates' words. North Korea said it is ready to make sincere efforts at the new talks to live up to the spirit of the joint statement. South Korea hopes the ongoing talks will lay the foundations for carrying out the statement.

All eyes are set on following through on the statement, the result of negotiations involving North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan.

By dividing this round of talks into several phases, the negotiators are showing the world their wisdom and creativity in dealing with this complicated matter.

It is too early to put a positive spin on the talks. Hard bargaining will be the order of the day.
No matter how tough the negotiations are, the talks are on a road that does not allow U-turns.

(China Daily November 10, 2005)


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