By Tao Wenzhao
Judging from the chairman's statement issued by the chief
delegates meeting of the six-party talks, which concluded on
Friday, negotiations on the Korean-Peninsula nuclear issue have
yielded substantial results, which find expression in three
First, the six-party talks have kept their strong momentum.
As the issue of North Korea frozen funds at the Macao-based
Banco Delta Asia took longer than expected to be settled, the
timetable decreed in the six-party talks' February 13 joint
document was not effectively implemented. As a result, the shutdown
of the North Korea's nuclear facilities and supply of fuel oil to
North Korea were delayed. Or in other words, the implementation of
the six-party talks' September 19 Joint Statement made a staggering
Despite all this, however, the first action-to-action step has
been taken. The just-concluded chief delegates meeting affirmed the
accomplishments gained in the last phases of the talks.
Furthermore, extensive bilateral and multilateral negotiations
between negotiators from the six countries relevant to the
Korean-Peninsula nuclear crisis were conducted during the running
of the three-day meeting.
All the parties - China, the United States, North Korea, South
Korea, Russia and Japan - demonstrated candidness, sincerity,
pragmatism and conscientiousness at the talks. So we can say the
talks have kept their momentum.
Second, the six parties reached consensus on a framework for
fulfilling the tasks in the next phase. At the meeting, North Korea
reaffirmed the pledge it had made previously to declare its nuclear
programs and disable its nuclear facilities. The other parties
reiterated their commitments to providing energy and economic aid
to the North Korea. Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea's top negotiator made
it clear before and after the meeting to other parties North Korea
would declare its nuclear programs and disable its nuclear
installations in a matter of five to six months.
Third, the meeting set the timetable for fulfilling the tasks in
the next phase, though it did not work out the schedule for the
final settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue as a
All the five working groups are supposed to meet before next
month to discuss the plans for the fulfillment of the framework
consensus in the next stage. In early September, the six
negotiating parties are slated to meet to work out the road map for
carrying out the framework consensus. And the meeting of the
foreign ministers of the six countries is to be convened as soon as
possible. In such quick sequence, the denuclearization of the
Korean Peninsula and negotiations on other relevant issues are
being pushed ahead.
It is clear the chief negotiators of the six parties reached mutual
understanding that the role of the working groups be brought into
play. This is because the plenary session of the six-party talks
are obviously unable to have in their hands all the issues, some of
which, especially those involving denuclearization, address very
particular technical matters.
The crux of denuclearization lies in North Korea's declaring its
nuclear programs. The US pressed for such a declaration at the
first session of the fifth-round six-party talks held in Beijing in
November 2005, in the wake of the issuance of the September 19
Joint Statement in the same year, which promised a bright future
for the six-party talks.
The United States asked that North Korea state clearly how much
nuclear arsenal it possessed and what nuclear programs it had now
that North Korea had pledged to abandon its nuclear bidding.
Lately, Dr Mohammed El Baradei, chairman of the International
Atomic Energy Agency, said North Korea's keeping its nuclear
programs totally transparent matters most, which is but a different
version of nuclear-programs declaration.
The declaration should be total and thorough, relevant parties
insist. The US asks that the declaration should answer three
First, how much plutonium has North Korea extracted? Some allege
the amount is big enough to make a dozen nuclear warheads. Second,
does North Korea possess enriched uranium? From the very beginning
of the six-party talks, the US has alleged North Korea has in its
possession enriched uranium besides plutonium while the latter says
it has not. Third, how many nuclear warheads does North Korea
On the part of North Korea, it is extremely hard to take the
determined step toward declaration unless it has definitely opted
for denuclearization. Judging from the current situation and from
the country's words and deeds so far, it is likely North Korea will
declare its nuclear programs.
Naturally, the question of action to action is involved here.
North Korea's chief negotiator Kim Kye-gwan, before his arrival in
Beijing for the talks last week, made it clear that at the core of
the talks would be "the sequence of the obligations and
To the understanding of this writer, Kim means what steps should
be taken for denuclearization and what steps need to be taken with
regard to providing aid to North Korea and normalizing US-North
Korea and Japan-North Korea ties. And how will these steps be
matched in terms of sequence?
In fact, North Korea is most concerned about how other relevant
matters should keep up with the unfolding denuclearization process.
This is closely related to nuclear-programs declaration and
nuclear-facilities disablement. Or in other words, the work of the
five working groups must be well orchestrated. The lagging behind
of any one of working group would drag at the progress of the
Disablement of North Korea's nuclear facilities goes after
nuclear-program declaration. Disablement means rendering North
Korea's nuclear abandonment irreversible. In contrast, shutdown and
seal-up of nuclear facilities can be reversed. Once the disablement
process is set in motion, some key components and parts will be
dismantled or even shipped out of North Korea.
Now North Korea's nuclear facilities in Yongbyon are being shut
down, people can see substantial progress has been made in
addressing the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. But everybody should
be psychologically prepared for the rough road ahead. Hostility has
existed between the United States and North Korea for so long and,
as a result, the two sides very much lack mutual trust.
Moreover, the Korean-Peninsula nuclear issue is a matter of
extreme complexity, with various kinds of questions entangled with
each other. Intricacies are involved in resolving some of the
It is by no means easy for the six-party talks to have got this
far. And a tough road lies ahead, despite the initial progress. But
now all the six parties are on the same boat, it is quite possible
to have the Korean-Peninsula nuclear issue resolved, provided all
the parties work closely together.
The author is a researcher with the Institute of American
Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(Xinhua News Agency July 23, 2007)