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Trust Holds the Day
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The top negotiators in the six-party talks are set to start a two-day meeting in Beijing today, ending a recess of nearly four months.

A lot has happened in the past 16 weeks. Last Saturday, North Korea shut down its active nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. On the same day, it received 6,200 tons of heavy fuel oil from South Korea at its northeastern port and welcomed 10 inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency - the first batch to set foot on North Korean soil in five years.

In other words, the first concrete steps toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula have been taken.

The breakthrough may have been preceded by numerous twists and turns, but it also highlighted the importance of persistence and dialogue in the effort to resolve the Korean nuclear issue. In contrast, threats and other forms of pressure were once again shown to be ineffective. Flexibility, pragmatism and compromise from all sides will open new channels and allow the involved parties to find common ground amid their complex strategic interests.

Above all, mutual trust is essential. Commitment for commitment and action for action were included in the Joint Document signed by the heads of the delegations representing the six countries - China, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, the United States and Japan - on September 19, 2005, for a reason.

Time is now ripe for the top negotiators to resume their discussions. They still need to work out in detail how to carry out the actions that they agreed upon in February and to explore a future roadmap for follow-up measures.

The progress so far should be commended, but as IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei put it, there is still a long way ahead.

The core components of the issue include the normalization of bilateral relations, with the US lifting its sanctions against North Korea; the establishment of a mechanism to guarantee peace and security in East Asia; and the promotion of energy and economic cooperation.

Resolving all these issues will take time, patience and wisdom, while new obstacles may pop up. And only mutual trust along with concrete actions carried out by all sides will remove the barriers and smooth the way toward ridding the Korean Peninsula of nuclear technology.

(China Daily July 18, 2007)

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