What Would Happen as the Talks Resume?

[imText1]Why did North Korea comeback to the six-party talks, diverting from previous hard-line stance?

First, Kim Jong-Il might have realized the ineffectiveness of brinkmanship policy in winning the U.S. Despite of bravado, there is no energy left for North Korea to resist any longer.

Second factor is Chinese pressure. For now, what most important for Chinese policymakers is maintenance of the talks rather than solution of the nuclear crisis itself. China, along with the U.S. and Japan, led ratification of the UN Security Council’s sanctions resolution and, moreover, threatened the NK regime with the crucial oil-pipeline and revision of the Sino-Korean alliance. North Korea was destined to succumb.

Thirdly, North Korea intended to alienate the U.S. and South Korea within the frame of the six-party talks; Washington vowed to keep UN diplomatic and economic sanctions against NK until the regime gave up the nuclear warheads while Seoul did not prefer such harsh policy. And by exploiting the breach of friendship, Kim Jong-Il would definitely try to incite the anti-American sentiment in South Korea to elect another (mid) leftist leadership from upcoming presidential election of 2007.

Six land mines laid by North Korea

Given such intention of North Korea, even though the six-party talks resume, it is not clear whether the six ‘land mines’ laid by North Korea would be overcome.

The first ‘land mine’ awaiting the remaining five countries’ delegates is a demand of light water reactors before denuclearization. Such demand obviously violates ‘9.19 Joint Communique’ and the situation is totally different from that of 1994, when the Geneva Agreed Framework allowed NK acquisition of the light water reactors. It is now known to the public that even light water reactors can produce weapon-level plutonium. Thus, if a country wants light water reactors to be built, it must be a reliable member of international nuclear energy networks such as NPT and IAEA. North Korea, if still hopes for light water reactors, must be ‘re-admitted’ to NPT and IAEA to fulfill the international nuclear security requirement. Therefore, in fact, unless NK waives the demand of light water reactors, the six-party talks is inevitable to inert.

Second type of land mine is a controversy over definition of ‘every nuclear weapon and its program to be abandoned.’ It is noteworthy that North Korea has not even admitted its development of nuclear weapons using highly-enriched-uranium (HEU); Pyongyang only confirmed that of plutonium. According to a Pakistani nuclear scientist Qadeer Khan’s testimony, North Korea obtained centrifugal separators for HEU production from him. Since NK denies the allegation, it is almost impossible at this point to even designate which nuclear technology to be ‘given up.’

Although the previous land mines are removed, a third one will hamper the negotiation. It is a dispute over ‘denuclearization.’ It is not difficult to anticipate North Korea to argue for a comprehensive denuclearization of the region by mentioning the issue of American nuclear weapons.

Next and fourth problem is NK’s refusal to accept IAEA inspection.

Fifth, there is a controversial issue of ‘end the U.S.-NK enmity’ or a ‘peace agreement’ between the two longtime foes. NK then would certainly ask for abolition of US-ROK alliance, dissolution of US-ROK Combined Forces and, ultimately, dismantlement of the alliance.

Last land mine is NK’s insistence upon being approved as a formal nuclear state. If North Korea’s nuclear state status is acknowledged, it would be unfair to disarm North Korea unilaterally. If so, Kim Jong-Il would enjoy his membership of nuclear state and argue for a multilateral denuclearization.

North Korea’s nuclear test indicates the regime’s decision to go straight to the sixth, and last, option past the rest of land mines. The reason, supposedly, is the level of pressure and pain the financial sanction imposed by the U.S. on North Korea. The test was designed to maximize the effect of intimidation against the Bush administration.

As a result of the nuclear test, however, the U.S. was not scared, China was outraged and the UN Security Council passed a sanctions resolution unanimously. If the six-party talks delay and cannot compel North Korea to abandon the nuclear warheads, the U.S. and China might agree on a final and inevitable decision; change the regime in Pyongyang

This article is a summarized version.

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