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Six-Party Momentum
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The six-party talks are continuing to gain momentum with their resumption in Beijing today. Envoys from China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US are beginning the sixth round of negotiations.

The strong diplomacy in the past month has paved the way for the new round of talks. The bilateral meetings in New York and Tokyo are evidence of the serious commitment to the agreement reached in Beijing on February 13.

Under the action-for-action agreement, North Korea will shut down and seal the Yongbyon nuclear facility and invite back personnel from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct all necessary monitoring and verification in exchange for emergency energy aid.

A major step in a slow evolution, the breakthrough agreement is driving the negotiations forward. The responses from North Korea deserve applause.

North Korea demonstrated its intention to carry out the February 13 agreement by sending negotiator Kim Kye-gwan to the US for one-on-one talks on normalizing bilateral ties, engaging in negotiations with Japan, and allowing IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei to visit.

According to the February 13 joint document, the six parties agreed to establish five working groups dealing with denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, normalization of North Korea-US relations, normalization of North Korea-Japan relations, economic and energy cooperation, as well as Northeast Asia peace with a security mechanism.

The five working groups will meet under the six-party structure, making the discussions regular and effective.

The diplomatic activities before this round of talks proved that the February 13 agreement was effective. The first IAEA visit to North Korea since its inspectors were forced to leave four years ago was more than symbolic. ElBaradei said North Korea officials told him they were "fully committed" to implementing the agreement to shut the reactor and welcome back UN inspectors.

The international community has every reason for cautious optimism, though the strength of the agreement is still being tested.

Now the six parties will work on more concrete steps. What sort of energy aid the North Korea will get was part of the working group discussions.

The February 13 agreement is very significant in that it is the first deal to implement the joint statement of September 19, 2005. The long and at times harrowing journey toward resolving North Korean nuclear issue and building peace on the Korean Peninsula is progressing.

(China Daily March 19, 2007)

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