April 14, 2011 13:34
Before six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program resume, inter-Korean negotiations will probably come first, followed by dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. That is the sequence South Korea and the U.S. have been proposing since last year if the talks are to resume, but China made no response until its chief delegate to the talks Wu Dawei finally voiced approval on Monday.
The decision apparently came after Wu met with North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan in Beijing early this month.
After its artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island last year, North Korea suddenly said it was now ready to resume the six-party talks, which came to a halt when the UN imposed sanctions on the North for testing missile rockets in April 2009. It probably wanted to shift the focus of international attention away from its armed provocations.
The Lee Myung-bak administration has tried to hold inter-Korean talks to persuade the North to admit and apologize for the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan and the Yeonpyeong attack last year, while calling for separate talks on the nuclear issue in a bid to seek a more active role in efforts to dismantle the North's nuclear weapons program. Since the U.S.-North Korean nuclear talks in Geneva in 1994, South Korea, although directly facing the threat, has played a secondary role in disarmament talks.
North Korea has insisted that its nuclear weapons program is an issue that can only be discussed with Washington. Unless it changes its attitude, there will be very little point to any inter-Korean talks. The government must work with Washington to nip in the bud any attempt by North Korea to rush through the inter-Korean talks so it can move on to the more important business of talking to the U.S. The North must realize that its return to the six-party talks will not mean last year's attacks can simply be swept under the carpet.
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