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Wen's visit to DPRK holds out hope

By Pang Zhongying | China Daily | Updated: 2009-10-13 08:03

Wen's visit to DPRK holds out hope

Premier Wen Jiabao's three-day visit to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has raised hopes that the Six-Party Talks could resume . On Saturday, leaders of China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) met in Beijing and called for quick resumption of the talks on the denucleariztion of the Korean Peninsula.

Hopes for the resumption of the talks have been raised for the following reasons:

First, consolidation of China-DPRK ties can help Beijing to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiations' table. Wen's visit to the DPRK was not only aimed at bolstering bilateral ties, but also at seeking to resolve the nuclear issue.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi summed up Wen's visit, saying the issue of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula was one of the central topics of discussion during the premier's talks with the DPRK leaders.

Regional and global tensions were heightened and Beijing-Pyongyang ties got a jolt earlier this year when the DPRK test-fired missiles and conducted a nuclear test. Hence, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has become the central issue in the consolidation of China-DPRK ties.

For months, China has been trying to bring the DPRK back to the Six-Party Talks by promoting friendly bilateral relations. Wen's visit indicates that China's diplomatic action has worked. And the DPRK's pledge to "denuclearize the Korean Peninsula" and its conditional return to the Six-Party Talks show that China's role is vital to the resolution of the issue.

Second, an improvement in US-DPRK ties can prompt Pyongyang to return to the Six-Party Talks. Kim Jong-il, the DPRK's top leader, said during Wen's visit that the decision to rejoin multilateral talks depended on the outcome of its talks with the US.

Indeed, the DPRK-US talks and the mending of their bilateral relations should be a key condition for restarting the Six-Party Talks. But no substantial progress can be expected in the denuclearizing process without a breakthrough in DPRK-US ties even if the Six-Party Talks resumed.

Therefore, the DPRK's condition to attend multilateral talks, including the Six-Party Talks, should be considered fair and reasonable.

The Barack Obama administration has enhanced its efforts to directly engage and communicate with and persuade the DPRK both in diplomatic parlance and other areas. The US has said it is still willing to engage in a dialogue with the DPRK within the framework of the Six-Party Talks. If the US holds talks with the DPRK it will facilitate the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

Wen's visit to DPRK holds out hope

It is unlikely that the Obama administration will either rebuff or fully accept the DPRK's conditions to end the hostility between the two countries. Rebuffing the DPRK would mean continuation of the deadlock, while accepting all of the DPRK's conditions will be a turnaround for the US foreign policy, and neither is in line with American interests or goals.

So the Obama administration will continue to be prudent in its show of sincerity and goodwill to end the hostility with Pyongyang. But it is likely to increase its engagement with the DPRK in order to keep alive the Six-Party Talks framework by drawing Pyongyang back to the talks to have its nuclear arsenal dismantled.

If the mending of DPRK-US ties leads to the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, it will have a lasting impact on peaceful resolutions of other thorny issues across the globe. So China, which has special ties with the DPRK and the US both, should play its role to the full (which it will) to improve Pyongyang-Washington ties for an early resolution of the nuclear issue.

Third, other multilateral dialogues can be promoted simultaneously with the Six-Party Talks. Kim has already yielded some ground by saying the DPRK would attend multilateral talks, including the Six-Party Talks, depending on the outcome of its dialogue with the US. This is in complete contrast to the DPRK's earlier stance that it would never return to the Six-Party Talks.

This may not necessarily mean that the DPRK will return to the Six-Party Talks, which apparently it no longer considers as an exclusive multilateral consultation mechanism. Also, the DPRK has not clarified what kind of multilateral talks it prefers because it wants the convenience of holding the choice.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is both a regional and global issue, which needs to be resolved through a multilateral mechanism. So the other five countries-China, the ROK, Japan, the US and Russia - in the Six-Party Talks should emphasize the importance of the talks and persuade the DPRK to return to the negotiations' table.

The Six-Party Talks, however, should not be the only mechanism to resolve the issue. Other channels should be used simultaneously - such as the UN Security Council multilateral mechanism involving the DPRK, the ASEAN Regional Forum, of which the DPRK is a member, and the IMF and the World Bank that are likely to provide multilateral development aid to Pyongyang in the future.

All these mechanisms should be used to form a web of multilateral talks or multi-multilateral talks, including the Six-Party Talks, in order to realize a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

The author is a professor at the School of International Studies, Renmin University of China.

(China Daily 10/13/2009 page9)

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