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China Evaluates Six-Party Talks
North Korea should respect international norm: Chinese scholar
Sunny Lee (sunnylee)     Print Article 
Published 2007-02-18 10:51 (KST)   
While the parties to the Beijing agreement are busy doing their own math on the gains and losses from the multination negotiation and trying to gauge each other's next move, China is breathing a sigh of relief as the broker to the often stalled nuclear deal to finally have produced some viable results.

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Overall, China sees the outcome as something exceeding expectation and more practicable than previous talks in that the jointly doctored document is more specific about the amount of aid, timing and conditions entailed.

"There is every indication that the negotiations are finally on the road to settling the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula," the state-mouthpiece China Daily said. The official Xinhua news agency was more brisk to call it a "milestone." China Daily added there is a fresh momentum built this time, noting the six negotiators for the first time fixed the date for the next round of talks before they left Beijing.

Li Dunqiu, a renowned expert on the Korean Peninsula, said the nuclear talks reached a "turning point." He said the Beijing meeting reaped more "tangible" results than previous talks in that the outcome came in a "joint document," which has stronger binding power than a "joint statement," agreed in September 2005.

The fact that North Korea agreed to declare all its nuclear programs, in addition to agreeing to shut down and seal its current nuclear facilities, is a "big advancement," Li said, adding this time the agreement is more likely to stay in place because the document is very specific about what North Korea would get at each step of its following through on its pledges.

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Li also placed high hopes on the fact that the multi-nation agreement calls for a ministerial-level talks as a follow-up that can also evolve into establishing a multi-nation security cooperation system for northeast Asia. He said the expected trust-building process in the talks will pave the way for eventually ending the cold war in the Korean peninsula.

Ruan Zongze, deputy director of the China Institute of International Studies, said the just completed talks can be interpreted from more than one angle as the participants have diverse interests on the North Korean nuclear talks.

"It can be seen as partial success or partial failure. But the [converging] point is that nobody wants DPRK to demonstrate its ability again in the future. That's why everybody in the six-party talks has been working very hard," he said.

He was referring to North Korea's nuclear experiment last October that shocked the world. DPRK is the abbreviation of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Ruan said the six-party talks has now become a "fairly well-established" platform in the multi-lateral effort to dissuade North Korea from its nuclear ambition during its three-year operation. "Every party at this moment is very committed," he said.

But he warned the multilateral system is still "vulnerable" because "every time when there is some disagreement or dispute between North Korea and the U.S., the six-party talks will become the victim."

He took the example of U.S. imposing financial sanctions on North Korea only two days after it signed the Sept. joint statement in 2005. "The talks have been stalled for nearly 13 months and no progress has been made.

On the other hand, Ruan said there is currently no other better alternative that can replace the six-nation platform, so "nobody really wants to see the breakdown of the talks because nobody wants to bear the responsibility of killing this framework."

Ruan said he "assumes" that the Americans are also interested in seeing the success of the talks because it provides a rather good multilateral platform for America to exercise its diplomacy.

The U.S. has been criticized by some members of the international community for its penchant for unilateralism. The U.S. can use this opportunity to establish itself as a "partner" other countries can work together in addressing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, he said.

In addition, Ruan added, the U.S. should be more forthcoming in directly talking to North Korea to narrow their difference, as it showed in Berlin last month, saying such a move wouldn't undermine the multilateral platform; rather it would contribute to the multi-lateral confidence building.

As to China's view on North Korea's nuclear development, Ruan said any kind of nuclear rise, whether it is a state or a region, all stands against the Chinese foreign policy.

"DPRK is a sovereign state. It has every right to do anything that it thinks serves its interests. But at the same time, we would like to see some international norm applied," he said without further elaborating.

Meanwhile, Shi Yanhong, an international affairs expert at Renmin University in Beijing, is rather cautious about how the talks could evolve from here. He pointed out that it took 15 months from the last round of talks to the current round of talks only to agree on the "initial steps" of the implementation of the Sept. 19 joint statement.

"We can see that there is still a long way to go," Shi said.
What do you think of the new North Korea nuclear agreement?  (2007-02-14 ~ 2007-03-17)
It's an improvement over the Clinton agreement.
It's Clinton Agreed Framework II.
It won't stop North Korea's nuclear program.
I don't know.
Sunny Lee (boston.sunny@gmail.com) is a journalist based in Beijing, where he has lived for five years. A native of South Korea, Lee is a graduate of Harvard University and Beijing Foreign Studies University.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Sunny Lee

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