The Dec. 8-10 visit to Pyongyang by the U.S. special representative for North Korean policy, Stephen Bosworth, did not produce a concrete result on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The United States and North Korea reached “common understandings” on the need to resume the stalled six-party talks but, as U.S. State Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, “it does remain to be seen whether and when the North Koreans will return to the six-party talks.”
Attention should be paid to the fact that immediately after Mr. Bosworth’s visit, the North Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed that the two sides reached a common understanding on both the importance of a September 2005 agreement reached under the six-party talks, which reaffirmed that the goal of the talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as on the need to resume the talks.
Mr. Bosworth later told Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada that North Korea showed a positive attitude toward holding talks with Japan, including on the issue of the past abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents.
Still, a cautionary attitude toward the North is required. China Radio International reported on its Web site that during the meeting with Mr. Bosworth, the North Korean side called for the current Korean War armistice to be replaced with a peace treaty, and for discussions to be held on normalizing the relationship between North Korea and the U.S. The five other parties to the six-party talks — the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and Russia — should be wary of the possibility that making such calls is an attempt to divert attention from the pursuit of North Korea’s denuclearization.
North Korea is in economic confusion as a result of the redenomination of the won, carried out Nov. 30. It should realize that only after promising to stop its nuclear weapons program can it get the assistance and committments from the international community needed for economic reconstruction and political stabilization.
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