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Six Party Talks May Be Stranded Unless Verification Problem Is Overcome

Jeong Jae Sung  |  2008-07-09 18:14
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Six Party Talks will be held this Thursday in Beijing. At the talks the participating countries will evaluate the contents of the declaration submitted by North Korea and discuss ways to verify it.

It is additionally expected that the disablement of the North Korean nuclear program, a plan to wrap up economic and energy rewards corresponding to North Korean actions, the road map of the third phase, and additional meetings will be discussed.

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and North Korean Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan tuned their agendas through a bilateral meeting in advance of the talks. On the 9th, a South and North delegates meeting, and bilateral meetings between other participating countries, are expected to be held in order to consider the latest developments.

The key agenda item at this round of the main talks is surely verification. Although the U.S. has already launched plans to remove North Korea from their list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, it has also showed its intent to withdraw the measure if the verification process is not clear and full. Other countries also demand complete verification of the declaration.

Therefore, if North Korea actively cooperates with the other countries to establish a workable verification system, the Six Party Talks might have enough momentum to end the second phase and enter the third. Otherwise, the current negotiating atmosphere will freeze.

The way, schedule and costs of verification may be problem items on the agenda.

While South Korea, the U.S. and Japan take the position that establishing a new team in which the five countries all take part is the way forward, others insist that only nuclear states should take part in the verification process.

Regarding the way of verification, South Korea, the U.S. and Japan insist that approaching nuclear sites, collecting samples as evidence, and meeting North Korean scientists without any prior notice should be guaranteed, it is still ambiguous as to whether North Korea will cooperate with such a method.

The IAEAs participating in the verification will be one other controversial issue.

North Korea has also noted its unhappiness at the speed of incoming economic and energy aid compared to North Korean disablement efforts.

There is the further possibility that tension between the U.S. and the North will arise due to the Uranium Enrichment Program (UEP) and suspicions of a nuclear connection with Syria.

Kim Tae Woo at the Arms Control Studies Division of the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses predicts that North Korea may insist on the U.S. leading the verification process, with the other five countries perfunctory support.

Regarding the issue of IAEA participation in the verification, North Korea will not invite affiliates of the IAEA, as long as North Korea is not a member country of it.

He said that If North Korea allows all to approach the nuclear sites where plutonium was produced and kept it is the same as if North Korea were to reveal publicly all nuclear weapons. It is unacceptable to them.

On the topics of the UEP and nuclear proliferation, Kim stated that Although the U.S. may mention these things, the possibility of progress being similar to the Singapore meeting last April is high. The U.S. would not want to deal with these issues precisely because the Six Party Talks may face an obstacle if the two issues are placed openly on the table.
 
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