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What Should the Six Party Talks be about?

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Dr Leonid A. Petrov teaches Korean History and Language at the University of Sydney. He is also a Research Associate at ANU School of International, Political & Strategic Studies.

Dr Leonid A. Petrov, Lecturer in Korean Studies at the School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney, offers his views on the Six-Party-Talks, raising four critical issues which must first be addressed.

I do not believe in success of the Six-Party-Talks because there are too many parties, their intentions are too different, and their approach is wrong. Since 2003, when this forum was convened for the first time, the five nations tried to persuade North Korea to disarm it unilaterally and unconditionally despite the fact that Korean War had not finished.

They also targeted the North Korea’s nuclear and space exploration programs, automatically denying the DPRK of the right to generate electricity and launch peaceful satellites. Finally, after 2009, the US, ROK and Japan refused to participate in the Six-party-Talks, demanding from North Korea to demonstrate a “sincere approach”, which is impossible to measure or describe.

Instead, to be more productive in resolving the nuclear problem, the Six-Party-Talks should have first addressed the four crucial issues:

1. Replacing the 1953 armistice regime with a permanent peace treaty between the DPRK and ROK;
2. Achieving the diplomatic cross-recognition of the DPRK by the US and Japan (as it was done in the early 1990s by the USSR and PRC in relation to the ROK);
3. Offering a security assurance to the DPRK by the US; and
4. Lifting all bi-lateral and multi-lateral trading sanctions imposed against the DPRK since 1950;

Then, naturally, there will be no need in demanding from North Korea to destroy its nuclear and space programs because there would be enough safeguards against nuclear proliferation or inappropriate usage of these technologies. Only then would people on the Korean peninsula and the region stop worrying about a new devastating conflict.

In other words, the Six-Party-Talks have been addressing the issues in the wrong order and from the wrong end. Was it done by mistake? For the answer, see my post about the Cold-War unity and struggle of the opposites in East Asia.

A version of this article appears at Leonid Petrov’s KOREA VISION.

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