President Park Geun-hye called her proposal for five countries to hold a separate meeting on denuclearizing North Korea a “creative approach.” To start with, it is flatly wrong to call it “creative” because the idea has been floated in the past.
And this time, too, the proposal, which Park made last Friday in a meeting with her key security and foreign policy aides, is likely to remain merely a proposal, as the countries concerned do not seem enthusiastic about it.
Perhaps bearing possible skepticism in mind, the U.S., as if to live up to its role as South Korea’s closest ally, promptly expressed its support for Park’s proposal. “The United States supports President Park‘s call for a five-party meeting. We believe coordination with the other parties would be a useful step in our ongoing efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula through credible and authentic negotiations,” the U.S. Embassy in Seoul said in a statement.
It is rare for the embassy -- not the White House or the State Department in Washington -- to issue a statement about important policy on North Korea.
Although the U.S., albeit in an unusual way, put its weight behind Park’s proposal, both Russia and Japan have yet to respond, and China -- another key player in the game -- has indicated opposition.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, responding to Park’s proposal, only said that the relevant parties should “restart the six-party talks at an early date.”
This reaction is not surprising in that China, as well as Russia, would know well that Park’s proposal is aimed at putting pressure on the two countries regarding North Korea’s recent fourth nuclear test.
China, which had already implied it would continue to oppose harsh punishment of Pyongyang, knows that in the five-party framework, too, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan will be united in their position. Beijing would surely think of North Korea’s absence as a handicap in sticking to its policy line.
In proposing the five-party talks, Park may have taken her cue from the case of Iran, in which the five U.N. Security Council members and Germany pulled off a historic agreement to end its nuclear program after years of diplomatic negotiations.
In fact, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said that Tehran abandoned its nuclear program in the face of a “consistent and clear message from the P5+1” -- the six world powers involved in nuclear negotiations with Iran.
What Yun did not say is that Iran is different from North Korea in many respects. For instance, Iran did not conduct a nuclear test, while the North has already detonated four bombs. This alone necessitates urgent action against the North.
In addition, the five countries involved in the talks with North Korea have different positions even on the resumption of the six-party talks that have been suspended for more than seven years.
South Korea and the U.S. have put North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization as a precondition for reopening talks, while North Korea and China have called for unconditional resumption.
The six-party talks have been in a hiatus since 2008, and now, with South Korea, its allies and the U.N. discussing “strongest-ever” sanctions against the North, some even question the usefulness of the six-party talks.
Accordingly, the priority for the Seoul government is not proposing yet another mechanism, which is neither creative not realistic, but developing an effective tactic and strategy to form an international consensus on how to deal with the nuke issue.
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