Diplomatic initiatives to push for a fresh round of multilateral negotiations to break the nuclear stand-off on the Korean Peninsula are gaining momentum.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo is currently on a five-day visit to Japan after wrapping up his four-day visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) on Wednesday to promote the second round of six-party talks.
The visit followed hot on the heels of another diplomatic foray -- Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit to the United States late last week -- and just one week after a stop in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) by top Chinese legislator Wu Bangguo.
China and the ROK reiterated that peacefully resolving the Korean nuclear issue is their common goal and they are willing to push the progress forward.
Japan's Asahi Shimbun on Wednesday reported that the United States and the DPRK, the two major players in the issue, agreed to stage the next round of talks from December 10-13.
The latest episode indicates opinions of relevant countries appear to be converging on the way to the negotiating table.
This undoubtedly signals a positive step towards a peaceful settlement of the thorny issue on the peninsula.
The United States has previously insisted that Pyongyang fully scrap its nuclear ambitions before there is any multilateral discussion of a new mechanism.
The DPRK said its nuclear program was a response to Washington's hostile policy and insisted that only after the United States signed a non-aggression pact with it could the nuclear issue be resolved.
Tripartite talks in China's capital were first held in late April, involving Washington, Pyongyang and Beijing. They were followed by the first round of six-party talks, which brought China, the DPRK, Japan, the ROK, Russia and the United States together in Beijing in late August and paved the way for further negotiations.
The DPRK and the United States appear to have narrowed their differences over the issue since US President George W. Bush made a significant shift in his previous attitude towards the DPRK during last month's summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Bangkok, Thailand.
He said the United States and its partners were willing to sign a document, not a treaty, declaring "we won't attack you" so long as Pyongyang agreed to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
The DPRK initially dismissed the Bush proposal as "laughable," but said later it was prepared to consider it.
The easing of the stands of both the United States and the DPRK in recent weeks, coupled with active international involvement would seem a way to get the two sides out of the impasse.
It is in the interests of all parties involved to try to seize the opportunity and strive for narrowing differences effectively to resolve the nuclear issue as early as possible.
To carry forward the peace talks, it is imperative, in particular, to cultivate a sense of mutual trust between the United States and the DPRK.
(China Daily November 14, 2003)