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Six-Party Talks: Key Solution to Nuclear Crisis
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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 quick sequence.
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 talks.

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 test.

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 Korean Peninsula.

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 prospect.

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 nuclear arsenal.

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 try."
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 North Korea.

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)


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