North Korea talks: US envoy trip shows difficulty of getting to yes
US envoy Bosworth says North Korea talks in Pyongyang were 'useful.' But the North has not committed to returning to six-party talks on its nuclear program.
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"No," Bosworth responded, ending his brief appearance at the Foreign Ministry here after conveying the results of his talks to South Korean chief nuclear negotiator Wi Sun-lac.Skip to next paragraph
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Bosworth will now travel to Tokyo, Beijing, and Msocow to brief other parties to the six-party talks.
S. Korea not surprised by lack of major results
The disappointment of Bosworth's long-awaited first mission to Pyongyang did not come as a surprise to South Korean officials. He had assured them beforehand that he would stick to the topic of six-party talks and not talk about a peace treaty or US-North Korean diplomatic relations other than to note that such topics were included in the 2005 joint statement.
Mr. Lim, the architect of the Sunshine policy who accompanied then-President Kim to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong-il for the first inter-Korean summit, says he expects US and North Korean negotiators to be able to discuss "the modality" of six-part talks "as well as the agenda," but adds, "I don't expect an agreement" in the first attempt.
Park Yong-ok, former arms control officer for South Korea's Defense Ministry, adopts quite a different view.
Key gauge: Has North 'changed its ways?'
"No matter how many agreements they [the North Koreans] sign, they will be useless," he says. "We have to make sure they change their ways."
Citing the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea in October 2006 and again last May, he states flatly, "Any agreement made by North Korea holds no significance."
He doubts, however, if North Korea will ever give up its nuclear program, despite economic difficulties exacerbated by UN sanctions..
"What worries me most is if, in the next two or three years, they develop a nuclear warhead for their missiles or an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach US territory."
Those two issues get to the heart of debate among analysts about the significance of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs to date.
So far, North Korea is not believed capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to a target even though the North is believed to have between six and a dozen warheads. And North Korea's long-range Taepdong-2 missile landed in the western Pacific when test-fired last April – far short of Hawaii or Alaska. It's believed an advanced Taepodong-2 could eventually go that far.
US negotiators "will have to develop a different nuclear strategy," says Mr. Niksch, if their nuclear and missile programs reach the point at which they pose a direct threat to the US. At that stage, he says, "we will have to go back to the drawing board."