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Editorial: Tough moves get Korean nuke dispute nowhere
( 2003-07-12 13:47) (China Daily)

How to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula will have major ramifications not only throughout the Peninsula but all of Northeast Asia.
The latest developments have indicated a possible escalation of the nuclear crisis.
The United States has been deliberating on whether to enforce a blockade against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) while strengthening its forces stationed in the Republic of Korea (ROK).

In response, Pyongyang has threatened to do away with the constraints of its 1953 cease-fire agreement and retaliate upon any moves viewed as violating its sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the related parties have also been busy communicating and consulting with one another.

The DPRK-ROK co-ordination of meetings between separated families were undertaken as planned.

Washington and Pyongyang agreed to resume talks on joint excavation of the remains of US soldiers. After a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President George W. Bush expressed his support for Russia's involvement in the multilateral talks on resolving the DPRK's nuclear issues. As well, Wang Yi and Dai Bingguo, Chinese vice-foreign ministers, went to the United States and Russia respectively to discuss the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

On the other side, the trilateral consultations between the United States, Japan and the ROK ended with no substantial results, indicating the disparities among the three on taking further hardline measures against Pyongyang.

Washington's demand for the United Nations Security Council to issue a statement denouncing Pyongyang's construction of nuclear facilities was turned down.

All of these facts have demonstrated that Washington's tough moves against Pyongyang can only intensify the contradiction and could not gain the support from the majority of the international community. Given the serious nature of this issue and the possible disastrous consequences, a peaceful settlement through diplomatic channels is still perceived as the best option.

If the nuclear issue can be handled properly, a new favourable situation will be created for both the peace process on the Korean Peninsula and regional security as a whole.

First, the relations between the DPRK and the United States will become more stable, whether they return to the previous 1994 framework agreement or draw up a new pact following dialogue.

The key points of the negotiation objectives for both sides involve Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear plan and Washington providing the former with security guarantees. Such an agreement can be reached through negotiations.

Consequently, the Pyongyang-Washington reconciliation then can contribute to further developing their bilateral ties and creating favourable conditions for the renewal of DPRK-Japan relations and the Korean Peninsula peace process. Economic aid from the United States, Japan and the ROK will then be channeled to the DPRK, moves that are conducive to the improvement and stabilization of the DPRK's economy.

Second, the resolution of the nuclear issue can serve as a learning experience and open channels for the security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia.

As this nuclear issue is a problem between the DPRK and the United States, it can be finally resolved only through the talks between those two nations.

However, the international mediation and diplomatic efforts related with the nuclear issue will also undoubtedly play a positive role in resolving this issue. That is expected to help set up the security consultation mechanism in this region.
Through multilateral talks, the relevant parties can consult and co-operate under the common objective of realizing nuclear disarmament and peace on the Korean Peninsula, and make joint efforts in establishing an effective security framework.
Disputes on Pyongyang's nuclear development occurred between the DPRK and the United States 10 years ago. The two sides reached a nuclear framework agreement in 1994 after negotiations, and their bilateral relations gradually eased.
Since George W. Bush assumed the US presidency in 2001, the favourable trend of development on the Peninsula created in 2000 has worsened due to Washington's hard-line policy towards the DPRK.

Washington had even designated Pyongyang as a part of the "axis of evil" after the September 11 terror attack.

Since Pyongyang's admission of its nuclear arms development plan was exposed by Washington in October 2002 in the wake of US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly visit to the DPRK, the United States has adopted a hardline position and refused to hold talks with Pyongyang unless the latter scraps its nuclear programme.

Meanwhile, the DPRK is asking for assurances that the United States will respect its security and sovereignty first.

Such circumstances have done little but escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
To further complicate the situation, at the request of the United States, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, an international body whose executive board members include the European Union, Japan, the ROK and the United States, decided to stop providing heavy oil to the DPRK as of December 2002.

In response, Pyongyang announced in January 2003 to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, while indicating that it had no intention to build nuclear weapons.

The attitudes of the surrounding nations are also a key factor affecting the settlement of the nuclear issue. In particular, as allies of the United States, the attitudes of the ROK and Japan will have a significant influence on Washington's decision.

Seoul is asking Pyongyang to fulfill its obligations related to international agreements and to withdraw its decision of reviving its nuclear programme. In the meantime, Seoul is continuing to adhere to its policy of seeking reconciliation with the DPRK.

Japan is in a more complicated position. As a neighbouring country, it has been hoping for a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue. As an ally of the United States, it has to support Washington's stance. Japan is insisting on playing an important part in solving the nuclear issue by carrying out diplomatic activities and proposing various solutions.

Russia supports the non-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the peaceful resolution of this issue, and is opposed to imposing sanctions upon the DPRK to prevent the situation from further worsening.

The tense situation caused by the nuclear issue has already been a serious setback for the peace process between the DPRK and the ROK. Though their contacts have been maintained, their relations can hardly be further developed due to the obstacle of the nuclear issue.

The normalization of relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo has also been hindered. Pyongyang-Washington dialogue has been suspended and their bilateral ties have stalled.

Regional stability will be at stake if the nuclear issue is prolonged.

First, the continually escalating DPRK-US tensions can ignite armed conflicts, which will lead to disturbances in a larger scope.

Second, though Washington expressed that it prefers a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue, it has not excluded the possibility of resorting to military means. Therefore, it is hard to predict by what means the nuclear issue will be ultimately resolved.

Third, if the nuclear issue cannot be solved properly, disarmament of the Korean Peninsula cannot be ensured. This could result in an arms race in the region.
Therefore, it is in the interests of all parties concerned to resolve this issue as early as possible through peaceful means.

The Beijing talks between the DPRK, the United States and China in April are widely perceived as a positive step forward in the right direction.

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