Updated : Feb.07.2005 09:32 KST

[Editorial] NK Must Decide About Six-Party Talks


There are hopeful signs that a fourth round of six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue might be opening in the not too distant future. An example of one of those signs would be a comment by the White House spokesman in his regular briefing, when he said, "North Korea has sent some indications that they want to come back to the talks." It is not known what he meant by North Korean "indications," but it appears clear there has been some behind-the-scenes activity between the North and the US. Saturday's telephone conversation between presidents Roh Moo Hyun and George W. Bush, in which the two leaders agreed on the need for a new round of talks to be held as soon as possible with the goal of a peaceful resolution to the issue, can be seen in the same context. News that foreign minister Ban Ki Moon and deputy foreign minister Song Min Soon travel to Washington on Thursday to discuss the talks and that a Chinese official is scheduled to visit Pyongyang to encourage the North's participation give weight to these observations.

The process of the six-party talks began in June of last year and is now at a final, crucial point. The North has long had been hinting that it would decide what approach to take after seeing what the US's North Korea policy was going to look like and Bush's comments in his inaugural and State of the Union Address. The way Bush used very moderated comments about North Korea to avoid upsetting it is being interpreted as a desire on the part of the US to get a new round of talks started. The ball is now in the North's court, and all that's left now is the North's final decision.

If the talks are truly work to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, North Korea and the United States will each have to make mutual concessions in good faith. If the North is going to give up its nuclear program, the US must guarantee the North's system and make appropriate compensation. There must not be a repeat of the same insincerity as in the past, where talks are opened only for there to be no substantial discussion. There has to be firm resolve and a serious attitude about resolving the issue, because without that the future will not be optimistic. The Korean government must be thorough in all it does to make sure this opportunity work. It needs to create a direct channel for convincing the North to act. Most key to what happens next, however, will be a strategic decision on the part of the North.

The Hankyoreh, 7 February 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]




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