Resuming the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear development programs will be meaningless if it is done with no conditions attached.
It is vital to continue to press Pyongyang to take concrete action so that substantive progress is made toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung Hwan met Saturday on the Indonesian resort island of Bali and adopted a joint statement.
Referring to preconditions for resuming the stalled multilateral talks, the statement sought from North Korea “sincere efforts to improve relations” with Seoul, including constructive dialogue between the two Koreas.
It also prodded Pyongyang to “take concrete steps to demonstrate a genuine commitment to denuclearization.”
In addition to such outrageous acts as sinking a South Korean naval vessel and the deadly shelling of South Korean border island Yeonpyeong, North Korea last year went so far as to announce uranium enrichment activities.
It could never be logical to overlook all such things to reopen the six-party talks. Commitment on the part of the North to take concrete action toward abandoning its nuclear weapons programs should be a minimum requirement for the talks’ resumption.
In this sense, the “three-stage approach” taken by Japan, the United States and South Korea in calling first for North-South dialogue, followed by consultations between the United States and North Korea and then resumption of the six-party talks should be considered right and proper.
Up until recently, Pyongyang ignored the South Korean administration of President Lee Myung-bak, but consultations took place for the first time in two years and seven months between the two Koreas’ chief nuclear envoys the day before the foreign ministerial talks involving Japan, South Korea and the United States. With its economic hardships continuing, Pyongyang may have redirected its course of action in favor of promoting dialogue.
It is an old North Korean trick to ferociously condemn foreign countries and then suddenly offer to wheel and deal. There should be no excessive response to such maneuvering. Japan, the United States and South Korea should deal with the North in a coolheaded manner by ensuring unity among themselves.
China can play a significant role as chair of the six-party talks. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Beijing should be aware of its obligation to persuade Pyongyang to make concessions to Tokyo, Washington and Seoul.
Ever since last year, Japan, South Korea and the United States have stepped up military cooperation, as shown by the Self-Defense Forces’ participation as an observer in joint maneuvers of the United States and South Korea.
Enhancement of such cooperation is important to curb Pyongyang’s provocations. Military cooperation should be advanced steadily.
The joint statement from the foreign ministerial talks also called for North Korea to “take action to resolve the issues of abduction and family reunions.”
Bilateral talks on the abductions of Japanese by North Korean agents have been at an impasse since September 2008, when Pyongyang unilaterally scrapped its pledge to reinvestigate the whereabouts of abductees.
In the middle of this month, however, Kansei Nakano, the minister in charge of the abduction issue, visited South Korea to exchange information with South Korean officials including Unification Minister Hyun In-taek.
Such interactions can be attributed to the improvement of relations between Japan and South Korea under the Lee administration.
The United States and South Korea will have presidential elections next year, in November and December, respectively.
Japan, South Korea and the United States should share the understanding that with relations between the three going so well, now is a good opportunity for progress on Korean issues. The three nations should do their utmost to yield concrete results in dealing with issues involving the North.
Editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun
(Asia News Network)