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Six Party Talks Wrap Up without Result

Jeong Jae Sung  |  2008-12-12 12:09
The third round of the sixth Six Party Talks, which were held for four days in order to set up the verification protocol for the North Korean nuclear program, fell through in Beijing on Thursday.

By the morning of the final day, North Korea had consistently shown a different view from the other parties about methods of verification and sampling, verification targets and other issues. However, upon North Koreas presenting a written opinion of the draft verification protocol, some expected the atmosphere of the talks to change positively.

Unfortunately, the written opinion did not contain anything related to the verification protocol, the core agenda of the talks, and maintained its existing position regarding the targets and subjects of verification. In the afternoon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill left the meeting location first.

As he left Beijing, Hill told the press at Beijing International Airport, We worked very hard on verification, but ultimately were not able to get an agreed verification protocol.

The schedule for the next round of the talks has not been fixed yet. The meeting finished up with the Chairmans Statement.

Wu Dawei, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China and Chair of the talks, announced in the statement that, The parties gave full recognition to the positive progress made in implementing the second-phase actions of the September 19 Joint Statement. He continued, The parties evaluated the progress made towards agreement on terms for verification.

He added that, The parties agreed, as described in the October 3 Agreement, to complete in parallel the disablement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities and the provision of economic and energy assistance equivalent to one million tons of heavy fuel oil by the other parties.

In conclusion, Wu stated, The parties agreed to hold the next Six Party Talks meeting at the earliest opportunity, without providing a specific schedule.

This round of the Six Party Talks was supposed to complete the second phase actions of denuclearization and to link them to the third phase, but it has not achieved its purpose.

Now, the Six Party Talks, which have no timetable, could meet after the launching of the new Obama administration. It is almost time for the Bush administration to leave office, so the momentum of the Six Party Talks is not promising.

Further, the U.S. Department of State announced on the 10th that North Korea can always be put back on terrorism list. In light of all this, North Korea may well concentrate on preparing negotiations with the next Obama administration.

Eventually, the North Korean nuclear talks are likely to resume in March or April next year, when the Obama administration has lined up a new foreign and security policy staff.

Jeon Sung Hoon, a researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification gave his opinion, North Korea has dug in its heels on the sampling issue. It means that North Korea doesnt want to wash its hands of its nuclear weapons in any case.

He predicted that, The progress of the nuclear negotiations was over within the Bushs term of his office. Although there is the possibility of putting North Korea back on the list of terrorism sponsoring states, it will not be so easy due to public opinion.

Vice-Head of Committee for Defense Issue Studies Kim Tae Woo pointed out that, Both the U.S. and North Korea cannot step backward from the verification protocol for now. For the U.S., it was difficult to accept a verification protocol that did not include basic items like sampling.

He foresaw, North Korea presumably thought that accepting the U.S. requirements would influence the next phase of negotiations for denuclearization. They need some coordination period.

He added that, The U.S. and North Korea may try to meet. North Korea would want to approach the U.S. in order to protect itself from the U.S. making a tough gesture.

North Korea will keep approaching the U.S. with deft tactics, and the U.S. will not be a match for North Korea, even though it knows the Norths ways well, he added.
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