WORLD> Asia-Pacific
DPRK, US open way to talks
By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-09 08:18

It is "highly probable" that officials from the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will meet soon, said experts yesterday, potentially triggering the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

But experts on foreign affairs also said bilateral ties between Washington and Pyongyang, which have been improving, are essential for the Six-Party Talks to be effective.

"It is highly probable that the two sides will talk as long as such arrangement would help ease the tension. The DPRK's aim is to sign a peace treaty with the US and normalize bilateral ties," said Wang Fan, an expert on international relations at Beijing-based China Foreign Affairs University.

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He added that success in the Six-Party Talks, if it is resumed, depends on moving the political agenda toward that aim.

"It can be expected that the first bilateral talks between the DPRK and the US will commence within weeks," said Yang Xiyu, a senior expert on DPRK at the China Institute of International Studies.

The act of disarming the DPRK in an exchange for aid, a key topic of former talks, will not suffice, Wang said, adding that the DPRK is hungry for security, not just aid.

US officials have said Washington is willing to hold one-on-one talks with Pyongyang so long as it leads to a return to the six-party effort.

Pyongyang has boycotted the Six-Party Talks due to UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests earlier in the year, demanding bilateral negotiations with the US for a breakthrough.

Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of the state for public affairs of the US, said "the intent of any meeting that might take place in the coming weeks would be to test whether North Korea is in fact willing to come back to the six-party process."

Crowley "would not put a particular timetable" to make a decision to send Stephen Bosworth, US special envoy to the DPRK, to Pyongyang, the Yonhap News of the Republic of Korea reported on Wednesday.

But Crowley said that DPRK leader Kim Jong-il's latest remarks are "a different statement than" the country has made in recent months.

Kim told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Pyongyang earlier this week that the DPRK is ready to rejoin the Six-Party Talks depending on the outcome of bilateral talks with Washington.

China's top envoy to the DPRK also said on Wednesday that Pyongyang's readiness to hold discussions with the US is a positive development that could pave the way for a resumption of Six-Party Talks.

Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said that dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington would help "create the conditions needed to reopen" the deadlocked negotiations. He said such bilateral talks could be considered part of the six-nation process.

But Zhang Liangui, an expert on the DPRK at the Central Party School in Beijing, said the Six-Party Talks is already a failure "without any concrete effects".

He said it is possible for the DPRK and the US to hold an "open bilateral negotiation on some level", but the true aim for Pyongyang is to "stir up tension among other major powers" for its own benefit.

Zhang said the Six-Party Talks wouldn't help disarm the DPRK, whose clear strategic aim includes "achieving a nuclear-state status and benefits on all fronts: economics, diplomacy and security".

Bruce Bennett, a DPRK watcher at the Rand Corporation think tank, said it appears Pyongyang is trying to "bait" the Americans into negotiations that have no realistic chance of achieving disarmament.

Peng Kuang contributed to the story