By Zhang Tuosheng
Heads of the Chinese, United States and North Korean delegations
to the six-party talks on October 31 reached consensus that the
negotiations be soon reopened. In the wake of this, all relevant
parties were galvanized into action, contacting one another in
More recently, leaders of all the delegations, with Russian
delegation head absent, met in Beijing and had intensive
discussions about restarting the six-party talks for defusing the
nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
In another development, the Chinese, US and Japanese negotiators
held informal meetings on reopening the six-party talks.
All these events signify that the future of the six-party talks
has become the focus of the international community.
There are different schools of opinion regarding these
Some believe the six-party talks "have died" and that North
Korea's gesture to return to the negotiating table is nothing but a
feint tactic, which attempts to remove the pressure of
international boycott from its shoulders. One thing is crystal
clear, in their opinion: North Korea will never abandon its bid for
nuclear weapons. As a result, it would be hard for the resumed
six-party talks to make any substantial progress.
The second school of opinion believes the six-party talks should
be given one more opportunity to make a last-ditch effort to probe
into the North Korea's real motivation in conducting nuclear
On the basis that North Korea's real intentions emerge clear, a
solution can be worked out. In this course, the crux of the matter
lies in whether or not China steps up pressure on North Korea.
The third school of opinion believes the six-party talks are the
only effective way to resolve the nuclear crisis. On the premises
that North Korea abandon its nuclear bidding, all parties, the
United States and North Korea in particular, should make utmost
efforts and demonstrate patience and flexibility in order to make
sure the new round of talks yield substantial fruits.
If this important step forward is taken, the talks will
hopefully move towards its ultimate destination - a nuclear free
The first school of opinion errs on the side of pessimism. It is
still too early to draw the conclusion that the six-party talks are
dead, though we should brace ourselves for this pessimistic
Over a long time, North Korea has been torn between the drag and
push of "assuring security by having nukes" and "guaranteeing
security by giving up nuke bidding." The recent missile test firing
and the nuclear test, however, indicate that North Korea is
increasingly leaning to the former option.
However, it should be noted that North Korea's nuclear test is
political by nature as well as military. Its political goal is to
trade escalating crisis on the Korean Peninsula for United States'
scrapping monetary sanctions against it.
If North Korea is iron clad in its determination to go nuclear,
it should have conducted a chain of nuclear tests as India and
Pakistan did in 1998, as is dictated by the logic of bidding for a
The second school of opinion is much subscribed to in the United
States and Japan. Though facilitating the resumption of the
six-party talks, the holders of this opinion are prone to recoiling
from stumbling blocks, adopting the attitude of merely "giving it a
They could convert to the first school of opinion, which maintains
the six-party talks are dead. Or they could withdraw to the
"stalling" attitude the Bush government once adopted - having no
intention to have the problems resolved, merely keeping the crisis
from getting out of hand and waiting for something to happen inside
This author, however, favors the third school of opinion. This
is because the six-party talks, going through twists and turns,
have made breakthroughs and helped all the parties gain much common
ground, in addition to being the only channel accepted by all
parties to have the nuclear crisis resolved.
In order to assure the success of the new round of six-party
talks, all parties involved ought to do a few things well.
First, all parties should try to prevent any fresh emergencies,
which are detrimental to the talks or could divert the negotiations
from the right track.
Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is of paramount
importance, among all things. Consequently, all other things should
revolve around this goal.
The United States has recently made clear that it is willing to
have bilateral discussions with North Korea about resolving the
financial sanctions against the latter on the sidelines of the new
round of six-party talks. This is a positive signal.
Second, the reopening of the six-party negotiations demands that
the agenda should be in agreement with the principle of the United
Nations' Resolution 1718. No parties are supposed to put forward
demands that run counter to the resolution.
Third, as the two most important parties involved in the Korean
Peninsula nuclear crisis, the United States and North Korea ought
to display more willingness to make compromises and flexibility.
Other parties should at the same time use their own leverage to
help the talks advance towards success.
Fourth, all the parties should go back to the position expressed
by the joint communique in September 2005 when the last round of
six-party negotiations concluded, recognizing the important pledges
of abandonment of nuclear bidding on the one hand and guarantee of
security on the other.
Something new, of course, ought to be added in keeping with the
changing situation. Also, arrangements should be made involving the
timing and agenda of the next rounds of talks.
Fifth, in case that North Korea shows signs of substantially
redressing the wrongs, it should be rewarded with incentives.
All told, the Korean Peninsula nuclear crisis has entered a
highly risky phase and, therefore, we cannot afford to see the
problem remain unsolved indefinitely.
The crux of defusing the crisis lies in reopening the six-party
talks and assuring the negotiations make substantial advances.
Once the new round of talks is launched, the six parties will
soon get down to substantial business. These include:
Working out packages of action plans involving North Korea
giving up nuclear bidding;
Guaranteeing its security, offering it economic aid;
Conducting verifiable checks on nuclear facilities;
Normalizing the relations between North Korea and the United
States and Japan;
North Korea embarking on the road of reform and opening up;
Introducing peace mechanisms on the Korean Peninsula; and
Only on this basis can a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, which is
centered on peace and stability can become reality.
(China Daily December 4, 2006)