Talks with N.Korea Must Not Repeat the Cycle of Failure

      May 27, 2013 13:01

      North Korea has promised China to seek dialogue on its nuclear program, including through a revival of six-party talks that had ended in 2009. Senior apparatchik Choe Ryong-hae met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday and was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying North Korea expressed "willingness to open dialogue" with "concerned parties" to "ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula."

      But that is no guarantee that North Korea will suddenly stop its belligerent antics that have continued for almost six months now and sit down at the negotiating table. Pyongyang is probably more interested in winning back China's support with these pledges. Choe pointedly said the purpose of his visit to Beijing was to bolster ties between the two countries. He would not have said it if there were no problems in relations.

       South Korea and the U.S. should be wary of any talks with North Korea that merely end with promises of more talks and no meaningful progress in getting Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear weapons. Such futile dialogue has always bought the regime more time to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

      In response to Choe's comments, the U.S. already stated firmly that steps to dismantle the North’s nuclear program are "essential" in any attempts to resume any diplomatic process between the North and the international community.

      At this point, China's response is extremely important. Beijing calls for denuclearization but insists on maintaining the status quo in the North. If China attempts to resume talks with North Korea merely to ease tensions but without a firm resolve to get the North to scrap its nuclear weapons, the result would be merely repeating the old mistake of rewarding the North for its belligerence.

      Serious debate has started in China about how North Korea may actually be harming China's national interests. Beijing must realize that the international community is no longer willing to play the same game. Any fresh round of nuclear talks with North Korea will have to lead to meaningful progress.

      South Korea and the U.S. must find a way to prevent the failures of the last 20 years from repeating themselves. In order to do that, they must get Beijing to join their efforts to dismantle the North's nuclear program with as much passion as South Korea and the U.S.

      South Korea, the U.S. and Japan failed to capitalize on several opportunities to get North Korea to scrap its nukes and are now paying dearly for the mistake. Unless North Korea can be persuaded to take the first step and prove its sincere willingness to scrap its nuclear weapons and abide by its pledges, the cycle of provocations and rewards will simply start spinning again.

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