Moscow (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - The resumption of the six-way talks on the Korean nuclear problem in Beijing on July 26, announced on Tuesday, gives one food for thought. Some things are obvious, others are not.
In Moscow's opinion it is obvious that the talks should be resumed, and, importantly, brought to success. There should be no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsular. This is the gist of the talks and all six participants, including Pyongyang, agree on that.
For 13 months the two key "objecting sides," North Korea and the United States, were in a deadlock. During this period, notably last February, Pyongyang proclaimed itself a nuclear power and tried to persuade other participants in the talks (Russia, China, Japan and South Korea) that this was really so. But it didn't sound too convincing.
In other words, in the fall of 2002, North Korea that was accused by the United States of violating the then US-Korean agreements and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) with its secret nuclear programs, was demonstrating that it was doing exactly what it was charged with. North Korea evinced its readiness to give up these programs in exchange for new agreements with Washington. Pyongyang wanted to receive guarantees of security and help in its effort to further market reforms that were not making much headway there.
Resumption of the talks implies that the United States is ready to forego its tough position where compromise was replaced with the demand for North Korea's surrender. During her recent tour of Asian countries U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left enough hints about this change. There were no other problems at the talks. The gist of possible agreements on the "Korean crisis" was clear from the very start.
Washington has the main key to success of the Beijing talks, said South Korean President No Mu Hen the other day. He promised to supply the North with up to 2,000,000 kilowatts of electricity per year if Pyongyang signed an agreement with the United States. Washington does not object.
It is beyond doubt that now Washington and Pyongyang can well sign an agreement, probably, as early as at the next round of the talks. First, unlike her predecessor, U.S. Secretary of State Rice managed to neutralize the "hawks" in the Department of State and the administration in general, who had provoked the said "Korean crisis" that they failed to cope with.
Secondly, the recent visit to Washington by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has just produced bilateral agreements on U.S. assistance to India in nuclear power engineering. To this end the U.S. even sacrificed many limitations existing in this sphere. Meanwhile India has done more than North Korea. It has artfully obviated the NPT, conducted a de facto nuclear test in May 1998, and has just acquired nuclear warheads that can be used militarily.
But the six-way talks in Beijing had and will have underwater currents, primarily, U.S.-Chinese rivalry for playing the first fiddle in settling the Korean "nuclear crisis," and simply becoming Asia's Number One power.
It was clear several years ago that no Asian problems could be resolved without China. Whenever the six parties expressed their hopes or impatience or anger, they appealed to Beijing as the host that stood de facto behind the talks. This fact made China's role in Asia even more obvious.
Let's imagine that the "Korean crisis" is very quickly resolved, something that was quite evident one or two years ago. In this case Pyongyang signs an agreement with Washington under which it gives up its military nuclear programs, and allows any options for monitoring it. In exchange it will receive a program for economic cooperation with the U.S. This agreement will be signed by guarantors, other parties of the talks.
What will Asian policy look after that?
Will the six-way talks be preserved in a renewed version, first as a mechanism for monitoring the U.S.-Korean agreement, and then as a negotiating instrument for solving problems of North-East Asia? Will Beijing keep a chance to act as a go-between in settling complicated problems between, say Japan and South Korea? Will China be able to use the six-way pattern to tackle its own territorial and other problems with Japan?
Maybe the answers to these questions will be given even before the American-Chinese agreement is finalized.