US-North Korea nuclear talks: Why return to the table now?
US and North Korean negotiators will meet in New York this week to discuss North Korea's nuclear program. The US wants to head off any provocative actions from the North.
(Page 2 of 2)
State Department officials say they expect the talks to take place Thursday and Friday and to involve a North Korean delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kae-gwan. Mr. Kim was the North’s chief nuclear negotiator before assuming his new post last year.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The push for renewed talks comes amid some evidence that Pyongyang does not engage in hostilities when it is talking with the US. A study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington found that, with one exception, the North Koreans have not fired missiles or acted otherwise provocatively while they were at the negotiating table with the US.
But not everyone agrees with that finding.
If the Obama administration's "strategy is based on the idea that dialogue will trick the North Koreans into not proceeding with some provocation, it’s a naive and false assumption," says Bruce Klingner, a North Asia expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Not only has the North conducted provocative acts either during or in the immediate aftermath of talks with the US, Mr. Klingner says, but it has also established a pattern of using its willingness to talk and eventually behave to extract economic concessions from the US and its allies.
No doubt cognizant of this pattern, Clinton said in her statement that the North should not expect any favors just for showing up. “We are open to talks with North Korea, but we do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table,” she said. “We will not give them anything new for actions they have already agreed to take. And we have no appetite for pursuing protracted negotiations that will only lead us right back to where we have already been.”
Klinger says the US has to go further and demand “tangible progress” from the North on defusing the nuclear standoff before there is any return to the six-party talks, which in addition to the North and the US include South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.
Such demands might take the North by surprise, Klingner says, since the North Koreans “may very well feel they are coming back in a stronger position” after what he describes as a “weak” response to the North’s bad behavior of the past year.