With China showing positive view on the shutdown of the Yongbyon
reactor last Saturday and six-party talks negotiators set to meet
again in Beijing on Wednesday, observers are wondering to what
extent the initial actions on Korean Peninsula denuclearization
have been implemented.
Prevailing view among experts holds that the "initial actions
for the implementation of the joint statement", or Feb. 13
agreement, a significant step for the talks, have been implemented
"step by step with endeavors from all parties", but an all-around
implementation "still needs time".
Negotiators signed the initial actions during the fifth round of
six-party talks on Feb. 13. The nuclear issue started to record
remarkable progress after six countries – North Korea, South Korea,
China, the United States, Japan and Russia -- started negotiations
in Aug. 2003.
"Generally, carrying out the initial actions is not a big
headache. Five months passed, all parties, working very hard, hope
to implement them as soon as possible," said Shi Yinhong, professor
with the college of international relations under the elite Renmin
University of China.
All parties concerned have agreed to implement the Sept. 2005
Joint Statement in a phased manner in line with the principle of
"action for action", says the Feb. 13 agreement.
They agreed to take actions simultaneously in the initial phase,
including the eventual abandonment of North Korean Yongbyon nuclear
facilities, provision of economic, energy and humanitarian
assistance to North Korea and the establishment of a peace and
stability mechanism on the Korean Peninsula.
With a South Korean ship carrying 6,200 tons of heavy fuel oil
arriving at North Korea's northeastern port of Songbong last
Saturday, North Korea announced its shutdown of the Yongbyon
reactor, a widely regarded substantial step, after a 10-member team
of UN inspectors arrived in the capital Pyongyang to verify and
monitor the reactor sealing.
Positive reactions on the nuclear shutdown pushed the upcoming
round of six-party talks onto a favorable stage.
The Feb. 13 agreement says North Korea must declare all nuclear
programs and disable all existing nuclear facilities, including
graphite-moderated reactors and its post-treatment plant, and other
parties must provide a total of one million tons of heavy fuel oil
or equivalent aid, with the initial shipment of 50,000 tons.
Tao Wenzhao, a research fellow with the American Research
Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the
current shutdown of nuclear facilities is a "reversible" action,
which means the facilities can be reopened at any time.
"Only after complete denuclearization can facilities become
really dead," said Tao.
Experts believe technical problems still remain, such as dealing
with nuclear facilities outside the Yongbyon reactor, North Korea's
leading nuclear research center, and the fact that most assistance
promise has yet to be materialized.
As main negotiators, North Korea and the United States should
start bilateral talks aimed at resolving pending bilateral issues
and moving toward full diplomatic relations.
The US will start removing the designation of North Korea as a
state- sponsor of terrorism and terminating the Trading with the
Enemy Act concerning North Korea, says the agreement.
North Korea and Japan will start bilateral talks aiming to
normalize their relations in line with the Pyongyang Declaration,
based on settling "unfortunate past" and "issues of concern", the
Working groups over five subjects enshrined in the agreement
have already been initiated, covering a wide range of issues such
as a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, normalization of relations
among countries involved, establishment of a peace and security
mechanism in Northeast Asia and economic and energy cooperation
among countries concerned.
However, analysts pointed out that the inauguration of working
groups does not mean the start of a normal operation. The upcoming
talks will discuss how to push forward the agenda of the five
working groups, observers predicted.
"Since verification and denuclearization involve many technical
issues, pushing ahead the North Korea nuclear issue requires
patience of all parties," said Tao, the researcher.
(Xinhua News Agency July 17, 2007)