Sunday, January 21, 2007

Six-Party Talks - its good to talk but lets not expect anything

US and North Korea met in Berlin to discuss the nuclear issue. I am not very familiar with this meeting (having not read much news on vacation). However, it does seem that there are rumours of some agreement. What that agreement is about is hush-hush for now, giving rise to doubts to its robustness or tangibility. Maybe it was an agreement not to disagree just yet.

Meanwhile, Hyeong Jung Park at the Brookings Institute has written a piece on why he thinks the six-party talks will not get very far. He argues that the recent softening of the US line will not be good for the talks for several reasons.
First, North Korea was probably pleased with the resumption of the talks, but only because the meetings effectively brought to an end the increasing tide of criticism and rising tension that followed the nuclear test last October. Second, the North Koreans would likely think their persistence and the detonation of a nuclear device forced the U.S. to agree to what North Korea had demanded from the start: a phased, give-and-take resolution of its nuclear weapons program. Third, North Korea would think the overall situation regarding negotiations with the U.S. was in its favor, and that the U.S. may further soften its position the longer the talks dragged on. ... Fourth, while maintaining its existing nuclear weapons until "normalization of relations with the U.S." at an uncertain future date, North Korea would make use of the long and winding denuclearization negotiations to pursue two long term objectives: to lessen its dependency on China and on South Korea by improving and expanding its relations with the U.S. and Japan; and to acquire an equal footing with the U.S. in security matters in order to weaken South Korea's position in discussions on establishing a permanent peace regime on the Korean peninsula. Fifth, if giving up additional plutonium is to be North Korea's sacrifice, Pyongyang would expect compensation no less than what it received in the Geneva Agreed Framework in 1994.
He also predicts Pyongyang to suggest high level inter-Korean talks separate to the six-party talks as a way of ensuring that South Korean aid is not linked to progress in the six-party talks. The idea being that, by making sure that it (North Korea) can keeps its economy relative stable despite sanctions, they can hold out longer in the multi-lateral negotiation process for more perks.

Its an article well-worth a read and one with which I mostly agree with. But then again, I don't know anyone who is predicting meaningful success in the six-party talks. The most optimistic view is the official lines of vague 'agreement' and hope for a long-term solution.

Back from vacation
Back from Australia where the weather was unseasonably, but welcomingly cool. It was a very quiet time but I did manage to put on a bit of weight by overeating during the festive season.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui