Other Participants' Views on the North Korea Talks

By Kerr, Paul | Arms Control Today, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Other Participants' Views on the North Korea Talks


Kerr, Paul, Arms Control Today


THE FIVE OTHER parties to the Beijing talks have all stated that North Korea should not have nuclear weapons. But the United States and the other four countries-China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia-have taken different approaches, voicing their support for U.S. negotiations with North Korea and displaying far less enthusiasm for containment efforts. These differences of opinion will likely complicate any U.S. efforts to gain future support for a hard line on North Korea and suggest that the White House might allow the other participants to take the lead in offering inducements such as energy and economic assistance. -Paul Kerr

China

Beijing retains strong economic ties with North Korea, accounting for the bulk of that country's economic activity. China was not involved in negotiating the Agreed Framework in 1994, under which North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program in exchange for certain aid, but Beijing has taken a leadership role in bringing the United States and North Korea into a format for talks acceptable to both sides, including hosting both rounds of talks.

Many experts believe that Beijing has been applying pressure on North Korea through back-door diplomacy to resolve the issue. China, however, has constantly emphasized its opposition to the use of force or pressure to resolve the issue and held that the United States should engage North Korea in direct dialogue. China has also opposed U.S. efforts to raise the issue at the United Nations, and a Chinese arms control official said Beijing expressed reservations about the U.S.-proposed Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), according to an August 23 Washington Post article.

China's delegate to the August talks, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi, stated August 26 that "the Korean Peninsula should be nuclear-free. At the same time, [North Korea's] security concerns should also be addressed through...dialogue and peaceful talks."

Japan

Tokyo has publicly taken the position closest to Washington but has still supported negotiations with North Korea. Japanese-North Korean relations appeared to make progress last September, when Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi became the first Japanese prime minister to visit North Korea. During that meeting, North Korea apologized for the kidnapping of a number of Japanese citizens and extended its moratorium on missile tests beyond 2003. The two sides also agreed to meet the next month to discuss normalizing diplomatic relations and undertaking some economic cooperation initiatives.

The normalization talks have been stalled, however, due to revelations about North Korea's nuclear program and public anger over the kidnapping issue. …

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