Updated : Apr.07.2005 03:11 KST

[Editorial] A Critical Point for Six-Party Talks

North Korea's first vice foreign minister Kang Sok Ju, the North's man responsible for the working details of the six-party talks, has visited China and that attracts attention for many reasons. While in Beijing he reportedly met with Chinese deputy foreign minister Dai Binguo and China's delegate to the talks, Wu Dawei, to talk about conditions for restarting the six-party process. Based on what transpired Korean foreign minister Ban Ki Moon met Wednesday with his Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing. Earlier, in the middle of March, North Korean prime minister Pak Pong Ju traveled to Beijing to meet with high-level Chinese officials.

It is very significant that these contacts are taking place at a time when China is actively working to have the talks reopen. Chinese president Hu Jintao is set to visit Pyongyang early next month and there are people saying China is trying to make tangible progress ahead of his visit. North Korea has continued to issue hard-line statements about the talks but it has not expressed opposition to the talks themselves, and given how it has continued to meet with the Chinese it would seem safe to suggest that the North has restarting the talks in mind. The work of restarting the talks is approaching a critical turning point. The six-party process has been suspended for the past six months.

Given the current situation, however, you cannot be entirely optimistic about the results, because the biggest obstacle to progress – mutual distrust between North Korea and the United States – remains just as it always has. The US demands that the North come to the talks with no preset conditions and give up its nuclear program, while the North suspects the US of trying to achieve regime change. If the talks are going to open again the emphasis on the other's intimidation must change.

What is needed the current situation is for both sides to make strategic decisions. The North needs to stop obsessing with appearances and announce it will return to the talks while setting no conditions for doing so, while the US needs to take substantial measures to ease the North's worries. Of course the Korean government needs to work diplomatically to facilitate that. All participating nations need to keep in mind the fact that this is about to be the final chance for restarting the six-party process.

The Hankyoreh, 7 April 2005.

[Translations by Seoul Selection (PMS)]

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Copyright 2005 The Hankyoreh