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[Editorial] Six-party talks again

Few by now remember what the Sept. 19, 2005 and Feb. 13, 2007 agreements were in the six-party talks, while there are signs that the multilateral process will be resumed more than two years after it went into recess.

To help readers’ memories, North Korea agreed, in the earlier accord, to abandon all nuclear weapons and nuclear programs and return to the NPT, while other parties vowed to provide economic and energy aid to the North and normalize relations with it. The latter agreement had it that North Korea would shut down and seal the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and invite back IAEA personnel to conduct all necessary monitoring and verifications.

During the seven years since the inception of the six-party talks in August 2003, North Korea conducted nuclear tests twice and test-fired long-range missiles resulting in two U.N. Security Council resolutions that put sanctions against it.

Stephen Bosworth who will represent the United States in the conference in Beijing along with delegates from South and North Korea, China, Japan and Russia if it reopens arrived in Seoul yesterday to hold strategic discussions with officials here prior to a visit to Beijing. Chinese President Hu Jintao will meet President Obama on Jan. 19, when they are expected to discuss the six-party talks as a means to resolve the Korean problem.

North Korea, which caused the worst military tension since the war with the sinking of the Cheonan patrol craft and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island this year, suddenly showed a conciliatory gesture, assuring no change in “the position and will to realize peace in Northeast Asia and denuclearize the entire Korean Peninsula.” Seoul is, however, reluctant to face North Koreans in the absence of any acknowledgement of guilt and apology from Pyongyang.

President Lee Myung-bak’s New Year address to the nation on Monday manifested the government’s position as he said the door was open to peace talks and that Seoul had the will and plan to provide economic aid to Pyongyang “if the North exhibits sincerity.” Sincerity is an ambiguous expression but it connotes flexibility.

With expected U.S. and Chinese initiatives, Seoul will have to take part in the six-way talks. The conference cannot restart where it had left off because of new developments in so long a lapse of time and the tedious, unproductive talks will head to nowhere. But the only alternative at the moment is sitting back and waiting for a collapse of the Northern regime by itself.
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