Pressure on N. Korea to scrap nuclear programme

SINGAPORE Aug. 26. A common denominator that marks the preparations for the six-party talks on the suspected nuclear weapons programme of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is that there can be no quick-fix solution.

The parleys, the first of its kind, will begin in Beijing tomorrow and last for three days. Indications are that the participants may seek to keep the dialogue process alive, with more talks being scheduled for a later date at a venue to be agreed upon.

Another common denominator is the desire of the interlocutors to turn the Korean peninsula into a nuclear-weapons-free zone. This goal is shared by five of the six participants — the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Russia and also China, which will host the conference. As for the other participant, the DPRK, the question of its "de-nuclearisation", or indeed "non-nuclearisation'' is the very theme of the meeting.

Pyongyang has repeatedly stated, ahead of the upcoming talks, that its nuclear-weapons programme is entirely a question of arming itself with a "nuclear deterrent force'' in the context of the perceived threat from the U.S. According to Pyongyang, the U.S. has repeatedly threatened a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, which has been named a member of the alleged "axis of evil''. It is this aspect that separates the DPRK from the rest at the forthcoming talks.

China, which is considered to be the DPRK's main ally, has stated its preference for a nuclear-weapons-free peninsula. It is in this context that the difference in nuance between "de-nuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula and its "non-nuclearisation" — both, no more than goals at present — acquires importance.

While "de-nuclearisation" pre-supposes the existence of a weapons programme, "non-nuclearisation" does not necessarily imply it. Also, the reference to the entire Korean peninsula in this connection, as against just the DPRK, is related to the implicit demand that the U.S. should not deploy nuclear weapons in the territory of South Korea, its military ally.

Given these nuances, China has emphasised that the security concerns of the DPRK should be addressed as part of any solution to the question of a nuclear-weapons-free Korean peninsula. In a sense, the DPRK's security concerns, no less than its alleged programme of making and deploying weapons of mass destruction, will be the primary theme of the six-party talks, according to regional diplomats and analysts.

Closely related to this is the status of the DPRK's "programme" of developing, deploying and exporting ballistic missiles.

Japan is eager to raise the Cold War era abductions of its nationals by the DPRK, without losing sight of the nuclear and missile issues. Pyongyang tends to see the kidnap question as extraneous to the theme of the conference.

The U.S. position is that verifiable and irreversible rollback and elimination of the DPRK's nuclear weapons "programme" is the immutable goal. While the U.S. has indicated that the question of incentives to the DPRK would depend on its response to the demand for "de-nuclearisation'', South Korea and Japan have dropped hints of wishing to offer economic incentives to Pyongyang as part of the search for a solution.

China has taken note of all these and maintains that the security fears of the DPRK is an issue that is central to finding a lasting solution.

Those who will represent the six nations at the talks are: James Kelly (the U.S.), Mitoji Yabunaka (Japan), Alexander Losyukov (Russia), Lee Soo Hyuck (South Korea), Kim Yong-il (the DPRK) and Wang Yi (China), who will be the prime mover as both the host and ally of the DPRK.

Recommended for you