Korean Nuclear Talks’ Process Seen Achieving Multiple Goals

By Peggy B. Hu
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The Six-Party Talks process not only is working toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, but is promoting regional integration, says Christopher Hill, the lead U.S. envoy for the Six-Party Talks and the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

All the participants in the Six-Party Talks - North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan and the United States - "share the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula," Hill said at a press briefing in Berlin January 17.

"We all share the goal of solving this problem diplomatically and of figuring out ways to work together to encourage this positive end.  But we also share the goal of seeing whether the six-party process can perhaps be a little inspired by integration efforts in other parts of the world," such as Europe, he continued.

Hill was in Berlin to brief officials in the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the situation in East Asia.  Germany will hold the presidency of the European Union until July 1, and will host the 2007 summit for Group of Eight leaders in Heiligendamm June 8-10. (See Group of Eight (G8).)

While in Berlin, Hill also met for the first time outside of Beijing - the location of previous rounds of the formal negotiations - with his North Korean counterpart in the Six-Party Talks.  Hill said he anticipated having more discussions with the North Korean representative before leaving for talks with officials in South Korea, Japan and China.

Hill stressed that the January 16 meeting was an exchange of views, not a negotiation, on how to implement the agreement signed by the six parties September 19, 2005. (See related article.)

"We are not making a deal here," he said.  "We're having an exchange of opinions, and the deal will be made in the six-party process."

Although the agreement obligates North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs, Hill said, the other five parties also have made commitments.  China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States have stated their willingness to provide energy assistance to North Korea and have "agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the subject of the provision of [a] light water reactor" to North Korea.

The assistant secretary stressed that North Korea is at a crossroads - its leaders must decide whether they prefer to have nuclear weapons or a future in the international community.  He said that, since North Korea tested a nuclear device October 9, 2006, the international community "has made very clear ... that a North Korean nuclear weapons program is simply unacceptable."  (See related article.)

Hill said he hopes the Six-Party Talks will be able to resume by the end of January.

Although the talks have not yet achieved a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, they have brought the parties more closely together, Hill said.  He credited the talks with strengthening U.S. ties with China and added that China and Japan have worked closely in the six-party process.

Hill called Northeast Asia "economically one of the most dynamic parts of the world."

"Its export performance is extraordinary," he said.  "And yet it has not been able to realize this potential due primarily to the inability of countries as yet to work together and work together in a multilateral framework."

"As we move ahead in the six-party process and as we try to deal with I think a very difficult problem - that is, North Korea’s aspirations for nuclear weapons - we are guided by an effort not only to solve that, but an effort to build structures for the future, structures that can exist well into the future, beyond a resolution of the North Korea issue," Hill said.

A full transcript of the press briefing is available on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.