The wheel of the Six-Party Talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is turning inch by inch toward the goal.
"Action" was the key word for the six negotiators who put their heads together after a nine-month interval. And they did act. They agreed in Beijing on Saturday to establish a verification mechanism for the peninsular denuclearization.
The talks were progressing thanks to the positive developments earlier - the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) submitted a declaration of its nuclear program and blew up a cooling tower for its main nuclear reactors at Yongbyon; the United States said it will move quickly to lift trade sanctions and remove the DPRK from its terrorism blacklist.
Indeed, the six countries should be elated at a spate of good news in the past month. With DPRK's declaration and disablement done, is the third or final phase of the talks around the corner?
The farther the negotiations move, the more difficult the operation will be. Meeting US President George W. Bush in Japan last Wednesday, President Hu Jintao said there is much to be done to make the Korean Peninsula really nuclear-free.
The next step for the six negotiators is to discuss the details of the verification mechanism.
First of all, the DPRK's list should be verified. It was reported that the dossier might not include uranium facilities the US has kept in suspense. But the Bush administration is expected to make a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula its political legacy. It would not probably make the uranium issue an obstacle to the talks though it will continue to concern itself with the issue.
Other parties may be divided on verifying the list out of their own interest. The Republic of Korea demands facts about the amount of nuclear weapons the DPRK has developed; Japan hopes to raise the abduction issue; Russia expects progress toward establishing a security mechanism in East Asia.
If the negotiators okay the list, their task ahead would be to verify the items on the list, visit nuclear facilities and talk to experts in the DPRK. A heavy workload would await them. Divergences would be possible.
The principle that all parties implement the action plan of the second phase in an all-round and balanced manner is the prerequisite for opening the new phase. It means that the DPRK should discharge its obligations on giving up its nuclear program, and the other parties honor their words on action with their own action, including economic and energy assistance to the DPRK.
(China Daily July 14, 2008)