The giant step North Korea took yesterday is expected to make the Korean Peninsula a nuclear-weapons-free zone. North Korea's action has to be followed by the United States removing it from its list of "terrorism-sponsoring states".
North Korea handed over the list of its nuclear program and facilities to China. China was instrumental in starting the Six-Party Talks that also include Japan, Russia, South Korea and the US. North Korea was to have handed over the document at the end of last year as part of an agreement at the Six-Party Talks.
The agreement says the Pyongyang has to stop its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid. In return, the US will remove North Korea from its list of "state sponsors of terrorism" and terminate its Trading with the Enemy Act in 45 days. This means Washington will lift its economic sanctions against Pyongyang that have been in force since 1950.
In his statement yesterday, China's Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei was optimistic about the implementation of the second-phase of action "in a comprehensive and balanced manner".
The agreement also requires that the five countries have to ensure nuclear non-proliferation and help North Korea with economic and energy aid. All the parties will discuss to see whether all the promises have been honored.
The joint statement the six countries issued on September 19, 2005, after the fifth successful round of talks, is the cornerstone of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. The document makes it clear that the ultimate goal of the talks is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The statement by the chair of the Six-Party Talks clarified it again yesterday.
It is important that all the parties implement the joint statement of September 19, 2005, in a phased manner and in line with the principle of "action for action".
North Korea has begun discussing its nuclear programs with the other five parties, and that shows it is ready to reveal the details to the international community. This is perhaps the most important step North Korea has taken toward abandoning its nuclear program.
The next job of the Six-Party Talks will be to verify the declaration of North Korea.
It is hoped that the lifting of the 58-year-old US sanctions – connected to the terrorism list and the Trading with the Enemy Act – will create greater investor confidence in North Korea.
Yesterday's breakthrough is cause for great optimism for peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.
(China Daily June 27, 2008)