SEOUL — Four years ago this month, then South Korean President Kim Young Sam and U.S. President Bill Clinton invited North Korea and China to join the United States and South Korea in talks designed to establish a new peace mechanism based on a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula as well as to seek ways to reduce tensions and engage in confidence-building measures. Although hopes were initially high that an agreement could be reached in due course, or at least substantial progress toward that goal, the anniversary is certain to pass without celebration and most likely with little or any notice.

From the beginning, the enterprise was fraught with difficulty and misunderstanding. In addition, there were untoward incidents, such as the submarine landing on South Korea’s northeast coast in the fall of 1996, and repeated commando raids thereafter, just as the diplomats were getting down to business. All told, it took more than a year and a half to get beyond the preliminary phase and sit down at plenary session in Geneva in December 1997, the city where the last attempt to resolve the Korean problem took place in 1954. However, with the exception of a procedural agreement on the creation of two subcommittees — one dealing with confidence-building measures and the other with a peace mechanism — Geneva II has been no more successful than Geneva I.

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