The U.S. envoy on North Korean affairs, Stephen Bosworth, and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan met in New York on July 28 and 29. The meeting was the first U.S.-North Korea talks in a year and seven months. It followed a July 22 Bali meeting between North and South Korean nuclear negotiators, the first such meeting in two years and seven months.
Mr. Bosworth and Mr. Kim said that their talks were very constructive and agreed to hold further dialogue. But the talks apparently did not produce concrete results. It is also unclear whether the North will return to the six-party talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which virtually broke off in April 2009.
One of the issues taken up in the U.S.-North Korea talks was the uranium enrichment by the North, which surfaced in November 2010. Mr. Kim hinted that the North rejected the U.S. demand for stopping the enrichment, saying that it is a peaceful activity for the sake of electricity generation.
The North and the other participants in the six-party talks should remember the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement, which spells out a process in which the North will scrap its nuclear programs in exchange for energy assistance and a U.S. pledge not to militarily attack the North. The statement prohibits the North from possessing spent nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities and uranium enrichment facilities.
On Aug. 1, a spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry said that the North “remains unchanged on its stand to resume the six-party talks without preconditions at an early date and comprehensively implement the Sept. 19 joint statement on the principle of simultaneous action.”
The North should prove its sincerity through concrete actions, such as a return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime and acceptance of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which are included in the joint statement.
Behind the North’s motive to take part in the talks with the U.S. are its difficult economic conditions.
Pyongyang should realize that if it takes provocative actions such as carrying out a third nuclear explosion test or military attacks on the South, it will be driven into further isolation and its difficulty will increase.
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