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The intensity of the talks for the six negotiators was in the air in Beijing this week. The negotiation, however, ended yesterday without result. The outcome did not surprise anyone.

On Thursday, 13 bilateral meetings were held, the most on record since August 2003 when the first round was initiated in Beijing.

The flexible arrangement for the talks, bilateral and multilateral at the same time, was designed to push for a good outcome.

The meeting of the six negotiators from China, North Korea, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States shows their political will to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy.

The six-party talks have turned out to be a process that helps the negotiators accumulate understanding and confidence. In the process, they should learn to compromise and reach a consensus.

Ostensibly, political ideas and actions acceptable for everyone are not available because there is a lack of understanding and trust.

The negotiators must act in the rhythm of their wisdom. The fact that North Korea launched its first nuclear test in October further complicated the negotiations.

This week they reached a consensus on the importance of the joint statement signed on September 2005. They hammered away at the need for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and at the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

Some of the negotiators came to Beijing earlier this week with arresting division. Though the intensive meetings, especially at the bilateral level, produced no result, the restarting of the negotiations itself was a positive move. It exhibited the credibility and vitality of the talks.

The crux of the matter at the moment is that all the negotiators should try to find out the areas of concern and reach a point at which everyone agrees.

Concerted action is needed to enforce the principles in the joint statement. In the document, North Korea agreed to abandon all its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in exchange for energy aid and a security guarantee.

The flexibility shown by the United States at the talks may reflect an adjusted policy toward North Korea. US officials met their North Korean counterparts on the financial issue. The United States imposed financial sanctions against the North Korea late last year for alleged money laundering and counterfeiting.

More flexibility is needed from North Korea and the United States to make the talks really meaningful rather than a marathon event.

The six-party talks demonstrate the part the nations will play in East Asia.

The negotiators are now returning to their countries to brief their leaders. Hopefully, they will be back in Beijing soon.

(China Daily December 23, 2006)

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