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☞ Issue 83
글씨크기 크게 글씨크기 작게 기사 메일전송 기사 출력
The Six-Party Talks: Cloudy or Clear?

The results of the upcoming six-party talks have become hard to predict

Lee Byong-chul (2007/10/01 18:08)  

"The South Korean government officials' impressions of the North Korea-Syria connection over the mysterious nuclear project are gradually getting a very complicated tapestry that is woven by a lot of different artists," said an observer who declined to be identified discussing sensitive matters. There seems to be a growing sentiment among government officials here in Seoul that the sudden leak could become a stumbling block in the course of the six-party talks slated for Sept. 27-30, overshadowing the whole environment of the nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the United States.

Now that the second inter-Korean summit meeting is to be held in Pyongyang from Oct. 2-4, some South Korean government officials appear nervous about the results of the six-nation talks. Many observers describe the two talks as increasingly uncertain. In particular, a growing number of conservatives are trying to undervalue the summit meeting by dint of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun's low popularity, which has shown no improvement over the past several months. Furthermore, Roh's margin in the National Assembly is very thin, making it extremely difficult for him to push through his policies.

Speaking anonymously, a South Korean political scientist claimed, "With only three months left in his presidency, Mr. Roh doesn't have enough support to advance his policies because his government already lost much confidence from the people … Mr. Roh needs to persuade his counterpart Kim Jong-il to explain to Washington Pyongyang's uranium enrichment activities proactively." Roh is supposed to leave office in February 2008 but the people on the street understand that his power should transfer to the winner of the presidential election in December this year.

The outcomes of the six-party talks will be critical to the inter-Korean summit meeting, according to some North Korea experts who watch the government closely. Yet as the Pyongyang-Damascus collaboration recently produced many rumors, the results of the upcoming six-party talks have become harder to predict with certainty than any previous talks. It is likely that the disarmament talks this time around will turn into another version of the Banco Delta case, which had put both Washington and Pyongyang at odds for a long time.

Anger with the neoconservatives in Washington should be palpable in the words of progressive critics who have said that the neoconservatives successfully made the unidentified connection a wedge issue in the talks between the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia. They contend that it is extremely difficult to find data that shows any meaningful trend in a rumor like this, although that does not stop Washington-based hawks and critics of the talks from trying to make a small thing bigger than people expect over time. To some extent that seems to be true to many in the public who feel that the North has rightly responded to the Bush administration in terms of the "action for action" principle.

"If we fail to reach an agreement we will go back to where we started," said chief North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-gwan upon arriving in Beijing on Sept. 25. Before that on September 24, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hinted that North Korea could be dropped from a U.S. terrorism blacklist regardless of the Japanese abductees.

Pyongyang's ambition for its nuclear weapons program is like robbing a bank: If people see there is more to be had by robbing a bank than working in one, they are going to rob it, until they learn there is a price to pay. "[For a suspected North Korea] to hope and pray is a bad strategy," said an expert at a South Korean government-financed institute.

Also, it is time that North Korea should adhere to the constantly updated safety guidelines being raised by the United States in order to get a handle on the suspected nuclear proliferation.
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