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. Outside View: Good Start To NK Talks

Kim Jong Il has said recently that if the United States "recognized and respected" North Korea and progress were made at the six-party talks, Pyongyang would rejoin the NPT and admit inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
by Gennady Yevstafyev
Outside View Contributor
Moscow (UPI) Aug 7, 2005
The six countries that came to Beijing to discuss the North Korean nuclear problem are harmonizing a final declaration, but the key result of the talks is that the United States and North Korea have started talking.

The crucial task for North Koreans, who have felt as a besieged fortress for years, is to discourage the United States from trying to remove the Pyongyang regime and subsequently to ensure the withdrawal of American troops from the peninsula. Kim Jong Il also needs to quickly find "economic sponsors" to alleviate the awful consequences of his country's economic stagnation. Cuts in unbearable military spending will help do this.

The priorities of the other participants in the talks, though to a different degree, are the nuclear and missile programs of North Korea, its rejoining the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a non-nuclear country, and a clear-cut explanation of the essence of the official Pyongyang statement on the nuclear bomb. The talks should be crowned with the elaboration of an international document on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and of a peace treaty for Korea.

Experts point to changes in the American attitude to relations with Pyongyang, which became apparent in the past few weeks. Americans have held several direct bilateral meetings with North Koreans at the six-party talks in Beijing, something they stubbornly refused to do at the previous rounds.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the head of the U.S. delegation, made open hints about respecting North Korea's sovereignty and sending an American liaison mission to Pyongyang as the forerunner to opening an embassy. In January 2005, Washington described the Pyongyang regime as the outpost of tyranny in the region.

It seems that Washington has a new plan regarding North Korea, probably prompted by the analysis of the unfavorable, for the United States, situation in that key region and a striving to reinforce control over events in the Korean peninsular, using maximum political, military and economic trump cards directly without reliance on allies/intermediaries, who frequently play their own game.

Washington's forecasts of complications in relations with China forced it to review its policy in the Korean peninsula in order to preserve its standing there. This also gives the United States a chance to promote the reduction of nuclear missile threats from North Korea, which would be much to the point in view of a growing Chinese threat. North Korea's nuclear program is the key matter for the Americans.

Kim Jong Il has said recently that if the United States "recognized and respected" North Korea and progress were made at the six-party talks, Pyongyang would rejoin the NPT and admit inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Rejoining the NPT as a non-nuclear state implies that, first, Pyongyang should agree to dismantle its nuclear program under international control and explain what it is doing with the technology for the production of weapons-grade highly enriched uranium it received from Pakistan in return for medium-range ballistic missiles. And second, North Korea should be given security guarantees.

During bilateral meetings the Americans most probably used satellite photographs, defectors' testimony and possibly materials from the interrogation of Abdul Qadeer Khan, the "father" of the Pakistani bomb, to harass North Koreans about the transparency of their nuclear program.

Unfortunately, neither side seems willing to abandon its trump cards, which means that the road to compromise will be difficult. The demand that North Korea officially terminate its civilian nuclear program, made by some people, would complicate the matter. Besides, this would amount to regress compared to the agreement on the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO).

Pyongyang has scored major political achievements because the Americans expressed respect and entered into direct talks with it. How will this change the roles of the other participants in the talks?

If the Beijing process ends in success, this will be one more proof that non-confrontation policies, direct and serious political dialog, and involvement of the problem partner into broad economic cooperation are more effective instruments than the artificial isolation of states and labeling them "rogue countries." Taken together, these instruments can become a useful mechanism of influencing such partner's conduct and promoting agreements suiting all parties.

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Six-Party Talks Unlikely To Break US-NKorea Deadlock In Near Future
Beijing (AFP) Aug 07, 2005
The United States and North Korea must make major U-turns to narrow the big gaps still separating them after 13 gruelling days of nuclear disarmament talks, analysts say.
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