U.S. Unenthusiastic About Resumption of 6-Party Talks

      September 06, 2010 13:02

      Differences of opinion between the United States and China over the resumption of six-party talks about the denuclearization of North Korea are widening. China's chief nuclear negotiator Wu Dawei went to the U.S. to urge prompt resumption of the talks, but some skeptics there argue that the six-party talks are useless and have only aggravated the situation while giving the North Korea breathing space to develop its weapons.

      This was reflected in a recent remark by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who said the U.S. is interested in a "new way" that could generate more positive results than the six-way talks.

      Remarks by State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Wu's visit to the U.S. last week also reflect these views. "We're certain that China has its own ideas on how to proceed from where we are to a better place," Crowley said. "We have our own ideas. Other countries also will have their thoughts on how to move forward. We will be consulting, as we are this week. We'll have further consultations in the upcoming weeks as we evaluate what we think the next steps should be."

      The six-party talks started in 2003 as a multilateral approach to the denuclearization of North Korea after the bilateral Geneva Agreement between North Korea and the U.S. in 1994 failed. Their greatest moment came in 2005 with a statement of principles, when the U.S. and Japan promised to normalize relations with North Korea and the North agreed to dismantle its program. But talks came to a halt in December 2008, when North Korea began re-operating its nuclear program during the verification process. 

      That does not mean that the Obama administration completely wants to scrap the format. A sizeable group in America believes that six-party framework is necessary in the long term in Northeast Asia, where there is no security consultative body as in Europe or Southeast Asia. But even if the six-party talks remain, the U.S. is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past, which saw the North conduct two nuclear tests while the talks were ostensibly underway and gain concessions as a result.

      The Obama administration is expected to stress China's responsibility to work for North Korea's irreversible denuclearization and focus on solving this problem in the shortest time possible.

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