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2009年12月14日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 11(IHT/Asahi: December 12,2009)
EDITORIAL: U.S.-North Korea talks.

At long last, negotiations between the United States and North Korea have resumed, with the visit of the first U.S. government envoy to Pyongyang since the administration of President Barack Obama began.

Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, met with First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Ju, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's close aide who handles foreign policy.

Returning to Seoul from Pyongyang on Thursday, Bosworth said to the effect that the United States reached a "common understanding" with North Korea on the role of the six-party talks.

However, he also stated that further discussion is needed among the six parties about when and how North Korea would return to the table.

It has been a year since the six-party talks were suspended. During this time, as if to test the newly established Obama administration, Pyongyang repeatedly test-fired ballistic missiles and even conducted its second nuclear test in May.

North Korea also openly admitted for the first time in June that it embarked on uranium enrichment tests. Furthermore, it reportedly reprocessed used nuclear fuel and extracted plutonium, which can be used to make nuclear weapons. It also declared its withdrawal from the six-party talks.

Uranium enrichment must not be tolerated. But even if North Korea tries to advance its uranium program, it would take some time before the program can become fully operational. The first priority must be to stop North Korea from resuming operations of nuclear reactors that can lead to the production of plutonium.

There are also suspicions that North Korea exported weapons to Africa in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. Surveillance for executing sanctions against Pyongyang must be strengthened.

Now that U.S.-North Korea talks have resumed, it is important not to allow Pyongyang to act selfishly and aggravate the crisis.

For that, we need dialogue to take root and encourage North Korea to sit down at the negotiating table of the six-party talks. Although the future of U.S.-North Korea talks remains uncertain, we urge Washington, which holds the key to the North Korean problem, and Beijing, which chairs the six-party talks, to continue their effort to persuade Pyongyang.

The purpose is the complete denuclearization of North Korea.

There are concerns over Kim's health. In addition, North Korea hopes to open its doors toward becoming "a major power" to commemorate the centennial of the birth of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung three years from now.

Because of such time restraints, perhaps North Korea is growing impatient for achievements, such as paving the way to replace the cease-fire agreement of the Korean War with a peace accord through direct negotiations with the United States.

But what North Korea needs to understand is that the issues of a peace accord, denuclearization and normalization of diplomatic relations with the United States and Japan cannot be resolved by Washington and Pyongyang alone.

Such objectives have already been incorporated into the joint statement of the six-party talks four years ago. North Korea must return to that track.

North Korea has staged crises to solicit kickbacks from other countries. But it must also seriously accept that Japan, the United States and South Korea have vowed not to allow a repeat of such developments.

Japan, the United States, South Korea, China and Russia should not easily compromise until they can move North Korea toward denuclearization. They should put the 2005 joint statement into practice. It is vital that they further strengthen their cooperation.


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