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Beijing talks raise hopes for peace
( 2003-08-31 08:26) (China Daily HK Edition)

Diplomatic initiatives to break the stalemate over the simmering nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula have gained momentum with the launch of the six-party talks which ended in Beijing yesterday.

The three-day negotiations brought together China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the United States.

Following the tripartite Beijing talks in late April, involving Washington, Pyongyang and Beijing, the six-way meeting offered relevant parties another pivotal chance for the peaceful settlement of the long-standing nuclear issue on the peninsula and laid a base for further talks. Expectations are riding on all parties to bring the nuclear issue under control and build a diversified security framework for the region in the long term.

Evincing the willingness of all the parties to settle disputes through peaceful means and a spirit of reconciliation and co-operation, the coming-together of the six parties for face-to-face talks at the negotiating table has itself given out a positive signal. It marks a new beginning of and a key step toward a peaceful resolution to the 10-month nuclear crisis on the peninsula.

All the parties standed by the non-nuclearization of the peninsula and agreed to solve the issue through dialogue and peaceful means, and to take the DPRK's security concerns into consideration and keep talking to expand common grounds. The United States said it had no intention of invading the DPRK or seeking to overthrow its leader.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang indicated that it is willing to give up its nuclear plans and coexist peacefully with the United States as long as Washington changes its policy towards the country.

This is undoubtedly conducive to enhancing mutual understanding as well as laying necessary ground for the continuation of the talks to unravel the current impasse. If they keep their minds open, solutions to issues on the Korean Peninsula may become possible.

A Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons is crucial not only to the security and stability of Northeast Asia but also the whole world. It is in the interests of all parties concerned to resolve the issue as early as possible through peaceful means.

As the host of the six-way talks, China has been playing a co-operative role in handling the nuclear crisis on the peninsula by actively propelling relevant parties to solve the issue through dialogue, forming part of the international community's effort to make the peninsula free of nuclear.

The Chinese Government has carried out several rounds of constructive diplomatic mediation since March, between the different countries involved to promote the peace talks.

DPRK has made vital and resolute decisions with regard to the launch of the six-party talks. The US and the other parties involved have also tabled important proposals for the talks. The willingness of all the parties concerned to solve the issue through peaceful means pushed for an inclusive multilateral dialogue.

All can be hopeful the multilateral discussion in Beijing will pave the way for further negotiations.

The root of the nuclear issue derives from the remaining shadow of the Cold War over the Korean Peninsula.

Schisms 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 18 months of arduous negotiations to freeze Pyongyang's plutonium-based nuclear programme in exchange for food and technical aid from the United States, in particular, aid in delivering two light-water reactors to Pyongyang for the purpose of generating electricity.

The pressing policy adopted by Washington towards the DPRK since George W. Bush assumed the US presidency in 2001 has resulted in an exchange of adverse gestures from both sides. The DPRK decided to step up its nuclear programme in response to what it perceived as Washington's increasingly hostility demonstrated by Bush's designation of the DPRK as part of "the axis of evil" after September 11, as well as a potential target of US pre-emptive strikes. This set the bar for talks impossibly high.

The nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002 when Washington exposed Pyongyang's admission of its clandestine highly enriched uranium nuclear programme in breach of the 1994 Agreed Framework.Pyongyang revived its nuclear programme frozen under the 1994 accord and announced in January 2003 to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in retaliation for Washington's termination of heavy fuel oil supply contracts. The DPRK insisted on bilateral talks with the United States and said it would give up its nuclear programme only after Washington signs a non-aggression pact with it. The United States insisted that Pyongyang should fully scrap its nuclear ambitions before there is any multilateral discussion of a new mechanism.

The trading of criticism and conflicting stances between the two sides pushed the situation nearer to a precarious impasse and the world to the brink of an abyss of uncertainty. This has caused deep concern among the international community, in particular Asian countries.

Hence, the decision made by Pyongyang to conduct a direct six-party dialogue in Beijing, and the active response from Washington, were positive steps for all the countries involved.

Predictably, the road ahead of diplomatic initiatives will by no means be smooth.

It is unrealistic to expect one or two sets of meetings to solve all problems since mutual distrust serves the biggest impediment. The six-party talks are but the first in a series of tough rounds of negotiations, with even agreement to meet again to be greeted as a sign of success.

How to bridge the gap in the basic positions of the two nations, more specifically, who goes first to cut the Gordian knot is the focus of the negotiations. The DPRK put forward a package of solutions to the nuclear issue during the talks, clarifying the principle of "simultaneous actions"- the DPRK and the United States should simultaneously show their determination to eliminate each other's concerns.

The format of the talks is important but content is more important.

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

However, the international intercession and the diplomatic efforts will also undoubtedly play a positive role in resolving the issue. 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 making joint efforts in establishing an effective security framework.

A solution lies within reach as long as all the sides concerned work together sincerely through peaceful negotiations.

With new negotiations kicking off, it is our hope that the diplomatic talks will keep going for peaceful resolution to this complex issue, and that eventually a comprehensive security consultation mechanism on the peninsula, and throughout the region will be established.

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