The six-nation conference lasted from August 27 to 29 in Beijing, China, and the delegates from Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), Republic of Korea (South Korea), China, the United States, Russia and Japan had deliberations on the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. The conference produced the common understanding of six issues including "peaceful solution of nuclear weapons program," "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," "continuation of dialogue." How should we see the result of the six-nation talks?
"Common Understanding" of 6 Issues
On the last day of the conference, Chairperson Wang Yi, Vice Foreign Minister of China, explained the common understanding of the agenda to participating delegates, which everybody agreed with applause.
They were (1) peaceful settlement of the nuclear crisis in the Korean Peninsula, (2) denuclearization and settlement of security concern felt by North Korea, (3) step-by-step and parallel drafting of the settlement plans, (4) carefulness about what one says and does so that it would not make the situation worse, (5) continuation of dialogue and increase of common understanding, (6) immediate settlement of the schedule for the next conference.
The six-nation talks offered the table where the US and North Korea could have direct negotiation, which was the desire of North Korea, in a form of multilateral conference that had been sought by the US. Although under the weak form of "common understanding," it should be considered much successful that the six agenda above-mentioned were deliberated and confirmed. As far as the dialogue continues, North Korea has to exercise their self-control, while the US and Japan would have difficulty in resorting to provocative manner and putting economic and military pressure on North Korea.
The success of the six-nation talks was a blow to jingoistic influence in Japan as well as in the US. ABE Shinzo, Japan's Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, was very alert for the dialogue between North Korea and the US, saying "As a Japanese, I would not like to have the US conclude a non-aggression pact, which would cause much trouble to Japan." Therefore, the fact that "continuation of dialogue" was agreed has an important meaning for peace in Northeast Asia.
Main Cause is "Axis-of-Evil" Theory
A series of North Korean language and behavior called "brinkmanship" prompted the concerned nations to set up the six-nation talks. In October last year, a North Korean official suggested to US Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly that North Korea owns nuclear weapons. And in January this year, North Korea declared their withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This time, it is said that, during direct talks between the US and North Korea in the intervals, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yeong-il has told US envoys that North Korea could show the nuclear weapons they have and suggested that nuclear testing is being planned.
The envoys from the US and Japan condemned North Korea severely, saying, "We cannot tolerate North Korea's nuclear weapons development programs," and the Japanese mass media joined the chorus of anger.
Make no mistake. We also oppose North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons and testing of those weapons, which would definitely intensify the strains in Northeast Asia. However, it is necessary to note that the Bush administration has caused all of these unpleasant situations.
All of North Korean comments on their nuclear weapons started when US President George Bush named North Korea as one of the "axis of evil" nations in the State-of-the-Union Message in January of 2002. In June of the same year Bush again said that he would not hesitate to launch a pre-emptive strike on any of these nations. Moreover, the Bush administration, teaming up with Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, actually conducted the military operations on Iraq, wiping out the Saddam Hussein regime. It is easy to imagine that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would feel the sense of impending crisis thinking that the same thing may happen to him tomorrow.
Vice Minister Kim, chief of the North Korean delegation, made a keynote statement saying, "The Bush administration defined our country as the 'axis of evil' and put us on the 'pre-emptive strike list,' indicating its intention to attack us by nuclear weapons. So we decided that we need to have a powerful deterrent."
North Korea Proposes Settlement Plan
In that keynote statement of the first day, Kim stated that North Korea's "general goal is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, not the possession of the nuclear weapons."
He then proposed four steps as follows:
(1) The US resume the supply of heavy oil and expand the humanitarian food aids while North Korea announce its nuclear weapons program to be scrapped. (2) The US conclude a non-aggression pact with North Korea and compensate for the loss of electric power caused by shortage of heavy oil. North Korea, at the same time, freeze nuclear materials and nuclear facilities and accept an inspection team. (3) As soon as US-North Korea and Japan-North Korea diplomatic relations are established, North Korea be ready to settle the missile problems. (4) When light-water reactors are completed, North Korea disassemble its nuclear facilities.
Although the compensation for the loss of electric power is a new demand, the supply of heavy oil and light-water reactors have come from the Framework Agreement between the US and North Korea in 1994(*1). The US is reluctant to talk about the non-aggression pact. However, as long as North Korea insists that their nuclear weapon is for security reasons, it would be essential for the US to resolve the matter of security and safety, which is the prime concern of North Korea, as stated in the common understanding.
North Korean nuclear crisis would never be settled without going through the process in that direction.
This process would open up a new prospect for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. It would also create the power to eventually push the nuclear powers like the US, China and Russia to disarm and abolish their vast amount of nuclear weapons.
Direction Shown in the Seoul Declaration
Although the envoys from the six nations agreed to hold the next meeting, there is no denying that the framework remains very unstable. As the warmongers in the US and Japan insist on pre-emptive strikes when they could not get their way, it is inevitable that skepticism would prevail if the next six-nation conference does not produce much progress.
It is the power and the movement of the people concerned, especially in Northeast Asia that will make it possible to maintain the dialogue until it can materialize concrete results. "Seoul Declaration"(*2) at the "Anti-War Seoul Festival" held from August 14 through 16 shows the way. We have to prevent a pre-emptive strike by the Bush administration, and have to call for abandonment of all nuclear weapons, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and early resumption of negotiations for the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea.
(*1) Frame agreement between the US and DPRK in 1994
It was agreed that (1) North Korea would receive two light-water reactors from the US in exchange for scrapping the construction plan of a reprocessing unit as well as disassembling three nuclear reactors (carbon reactors) and (2) the US would supply 500,000 kiloliter of heavy oil for heating and power generation every year until the first one of the above two light-water reactors would have been completed in 2003, from which it is difficult to extract plutonium for use in nuclear weapon. Now, these alternative actions are suspended by the US.